This I Believe

Fredrik - Shoreview, Minnesota
Entered on October 2, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: change

Change is Good

I believe in change. Change puts us outside our comfort zones and enables us to see and experience things that would otherwise not be possible. During my rather limited lifetime, I have experienced significant changes. The adjustments have sometimes seemed insurmountable, but in hindsight they have enriched my life and enabled me to meet new people and widen my horizons.

I moved to the United States with my family when I was fifteen years old, because my father got a new job in the Twin Cities. I still remember the family discussions about whether a move would be good or not. Initially, I was hesitant. A move would force me to leave my friends and the environment I was accustomed to, and cherished, from my childhood. On the other hand, a move to the United States would offer me new experiences and opportunities. After some contemplating, I was in favor of moving and we decided “to give it a try.”

I am from a slightly different cultural and social background than the American way of life. Swedish people are known for being quiet, reserved and observant and most Swedes have varying degrees of these ingredients in their personalities. I think that I fitted this description quite well, when I took my first steps into Roseville Area High School as a freshman three years ago. Initially, I was both confused and frustrated in my new environment. My first instinct was to turn back and get on a plane and return home to Sweden.

I was not used to strangers approaching me to make direct contact without knowing me. This feels a bit intruding for Swedes and we are therefore not used to converse with people we don’t from before. For instance, Swedes rarely communicate with strangers in elevators, grocery stores or on the street. Our approach is usually to be silent in new situations and observe before we open our mouths. The shock was therefore immediate when I started in my new school in Roseville. The school was five times larger than any school I had attended before. Many students came up to me and started talking. This was a new experience for me and at the same time I had some problems understanding what they said and immediately formulate an appropriate response. Several times I was unable to come up with an answer straightaway and the “stranger” would move on and I was left feeling socially handicapped. It took time before I learned the new social codes, but once I did I instantly became more comfortable. I was pushed out of my reserved Swedish comfort zone. I started making direct contact with people, simply by striking up conversation with new people instead of observing and waiting for people to approach me. This change in my social skills was vital in order to connect with people and make new friends. I could feel as time went by that my “Swedish” approach to people was rapidly disappearing and I learned to stand on my own when it came to making friends. I learned to approach, but also to become more approachable; the trademark of Americans. Simply, I adapted and became more American. I feel good about this change. I now have no problem with striking up conversation with new acquaintances. My new more forward approach to new people enriches my life and I feel much more confident in new situations.

I have frequently asked myself what caused me to support the decision to leave friends and family in Sweden for an unknown future in the United States. I had a comfortable and happy life in Sweden and I had limited knowledge about my new environment in the United States. Sometimes, during my philosophical moments, I tend to list things that I am missing because of my move. This includes losing contact with my old friends, watching my cousins grow up and spending time with my grandparents. I also miss the comfortable feeling of “being at home”. This feeling is difficult to define, but sometimes when I visit Sweden I get a sense that this is the place where I will always be most comfortable.

I then think of all things that I have gained because of my move to the United States. I have grown as a person, I have developed countless new relationships with fantastic people and I have learned more about the world outside my Swedish comfort zone. When I think of this, I am instantly filled with happiness and satisfaction. I feel that I have gained more than I have lost. Minnesota is my new home and I feel satisfied, secure and comfortable here. I love living here and I am very grateful for all the opportunities and friends I am blessed with here. At the same time I will always keep my Swedish background close to my heart. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to have one foot in both societies.

Change can be difficult and cumbersome, but it also offers tremendous new possibilities. Leaving the known and predictable for the unknown and unpredictable can seem intimidating. Changing personality traits is not easy, but it is often rewarding. When I arrived in the United States I tried to maintain my Swedish way to approach people, because it worked for me in Sweden. However, as time passed by, I realized that I needed to adapt to my new surroundings and change my approach. This made me realize that without change, we would be stuck where we are. Being able to adapt is vital and in this process it is essential to be true to ourselves and realize our weaknesses. This enables us to compensate for those weaknesses and adjust to new situations. Change widens our horizon and it offers us new experiences and enables us to grow. Change is good!