Thanks to Lise Graham for this post. Lise is an international student from Chicago, currently taking the Storying Sheffield undergraduate module.
I’ve almost made it to week four at University of Sheffield and though I thought myself well-adjusted and immune to it, culture shock is starting to set in. It’s been the little things that get to me, as the uni mentors said they would in my “cultural orientation,” like manners and rain and Marmite.
So I think it’s a good coping mechanism to start focusing on similarities between my new home in Sheffield, and my old one in Chicago. 7up, Kit-Kat bars and KFC, for starters. Packaging and sugar measurements may be different therein, but the names and stigmas remain, which feels good. Morning things like pretty sunrises and bird calls muted by the window pane and newspaper stands and the cup of coffee that you know is crappy but continue to buy because it’s the thought that counts.
The dew soaked grass that glistens if the sun is out and doesn’t if it isn’t, alongside the patchwork road whose layers of last minute fixes beg the question, “why not just repave the whole thing?” The incline of this road is totally different, (my knees are starting to hurt, my body adjusting to the new place) but it serves the same purpose. It’s a path for routines. It tries not to buckle beneath the weight during the rush. Then, it waits.
As I get closer into the city, I hear the same noises as home: the soft moaning of the bus as it starts where it’s just stopped, the hurried footsteps, the giggles of schoolchildren, the dog bark, the traffic. The park that has statues to be admired that are, instead, looked past as commuters hustle onward, ever-late and in trouble with their boss because they laid in bed again for an extra fleeting moment of that dream which turned into a half hour and made them miss the bus.
The new mother walks past, pushing her pride and joy and source of restless nights in his little stroller, still smiling down at him despite her tired eyes. They’ve only known each other a couple weeks, but that’s okay. Older mothers in their cars pass the pair, and when they’ve reached the stoplight, they look out and see them and miss the simple times.
Just past the park, there’s always that one grizzled homeless man waiting at the bus stop. He stands, waiting, gnashing his teeth together. Hours pass, buses pass. But he keeps waiting. I wish I knew what for.
I walk into class. I’m late again.