Adjusting to America: New school, new food, new life

By Lauren Rust

Two HCC students from Serbia, both members of the HCC volleyball team, shared their views on cultural differences that they see coming to the United States.

Marija Martinovic, Belgrade, Serbia, and Karatina Nicic, Novisad, Serbia both applied to many schools here in the United States for volleyball scholarships, but HCC stuck out to them.

It was because of the Blue Dragon’s tradition of qualifying for national tournaments, as well as their ranking.

“Sports are huge in our country,” said Martinovic. “We have some of the best athletes in the world and we are a very small country.”

In Serbia, many women are involved in sports, especially since volleyball is one the dominant sports in the country.

Classes are also different in Serbia. Nicic suggested that while students in Serbia learn more information, they do not understand it as much as they should.

At HCC, however, the students learn less information but seem to understand more of the information, she said.

Martinovic, on the other hand, enjoys the teacher student relationship that is prominent at HCC. This relationship does not exist in Serbia and teachers tend to not befriend students.

The girls also touched on how students are different here in the United States.

When Martinovic was asked about the difference, she responded, “Oh my God, I came to Mars.”

“It seems like we are more friendly,” Martinovic said. “We reach for deeper connections.”

Both of the girls attribute this difference to an earlier independence. Nicic stated that it is normal for kids at the age of 15 or 16 to leave home.

Nicic left her home at the age of 16 and moved to Belgrade to live in the dorms at a general high school.

Although kids from Serbia tend to develop independence at an earlier age, they still have good relationships with their family.

“(In Serbia) We are closer to our family,” Martinovic said. “There is also less of a divorce rate.”

She even mentioned that sometimes couples that are divorced stay in the same household with their kids because they want the kids to grow up in a stable family.

Serbian families also spend a lot of time together eating.

While Serbia has American chains such as McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut, many Serbian families do not go out to eat unless it is a special occasion.

Nicic suggested that most food in Serbia is organic, cheaper, and healthier.

“(In America) You don’t taste a real taste,” she said. “It tastes like plastic.”

Martinovic said in her country, that there are many open fruit and veggie markets. You can walk outside and smell fruit as you stroll through a neighborhood, she said.

Both girls have a connection to their individual families, but their families understand the independence that they each have.

Martinovic said that, at first, her family was against her going to the United States for school, especially since she could go to college for free in Austria.

Austria and Serbia have an agreement that both countries can send students over to the other country for free access to a college education.

Even though it would be free in eastern Europe, she came to the United States, and now her family is very supportive.

When asked if they felt safe in this country, compared to others, they both agreed that they do not.

Nicic commented on her safety by explaining that in Serbia, the people that carry guns are limited to police officers, military, and individuals with certain licenses.

“Nobody thinks about it,” she said.

“I have never heard of a shooting or a school shooting until I came here,” Martinovic said.

They both agreed that with more guns around, they feel less safe.

While both girls may feel nervous about the use of guns, something that makes them both feel at home and safe is fashion.

Both girls grew up knowing that they were supposed to dress up wherever they went, especially school, and they both continue to do that here in the United States.

“I just love to look nice everyday,” Nicic said. “That makes me feel good.”

“I am the unique one,” she said.

These girls both live with a host mom ­— Teresa Parson.

“She is the best host mom,” they both said.

Both of the girls enjoy HCC by hanging out on campus and being as social as possible.

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