While it is true that a person can be acculturated to the beliefs and values underscoring other cultures, for my case things have been different. Until now, I have not seen much difference in my home culture and that in the US. This may be accredited to the fact that both Ukraine and the United States are multicultural nations. Save for the racial prejudice that weighs heavily on my shoulders, the other aspects of lifestyle that defined what I considered my cultural have not changed much.
I was born and raised in Ukraine until at 17 when I traveled to the US for my college education. In the United States, I found a welcoming environment. But the truth is that I found myself struggling to fit into the culture here, especially with regard to my ethnic background deeply grounded in the Ukrainian ethnicity. As a female and a White, most of the struggles came in the form of food, music and friendship formation. The kind of food at the eateries and restaurants were not the kind of Ukrainian cuisines I was used to. The type of music was quite diverse, but neither genre resonated well with what had been good to my ears. The same problems also came emerged in finding suitable friends. I found it uncomfortable to mingle freely and kept a low spirit on this.
In the United States, it is difficult to point out a dominant culture or co-culture group unlike in Ukraine where Ukrainian culture and ethnicity is dominating in many ways. As such, I was used to identifying myself with the dominant culture and so struggled to feel part of the new culture by spotting the dominant culture and identifying with it. My gender as a female and the class predominantly associated with race, White, gave an edge over other international students together with whom we were "outsiders" in college. I found more love and help from other students, especially White colleagues who helped move through the studies continuum. This had the impact of making it quite easy to learn English as a second language as I had a little knowledge from my early education.
Among all my cultural identifies, my race stands out and eventually keeps all others from an observer. Rational prejudice in the United States is quite visible compared to what I have known from my home country. I sometimes find this weighing heavily on me with regard to the kind of treatment I get from others. As a White, it has been quite easier to navigate through processes of registration and access to other services which I appreciate but also present a mix of feelings. Could it be that I am using my race to give me an undue advantage over others? This is the question that keeps lingering when I reflect on this cultural identity paper.
In summary, despite the fact that I am a female White Ukrainian who should find it easy to fit into the US cultural context, a few issues caused a cultural shock to me. The kind of food and music did not resonate with what my Ukrainian ethnicity dictates, neither did these fulfill my dreams in a multi-cultural democracy. But since the time I began my college, I have come to find a few things I appreciated as far as my cultural identity is concerned.
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