By Roman Tmetuchl

My name is Roman Tmetuchl II, and this is my second semester here at Harbor and I am from a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific located in Micronesia called Palau and I am here to tell you of my experience coming to the United States for the first time.

So far, it has been about a year since I arrived in the states and there are a bunch of things that are new to me, one of them being the weather. I hate it, it’s cold, very cold. The weather I am used to is usually temperature in the mid 80’s with lots of humidity, bright, hot sunshine, and rain every other day.

To me that is good weather. I really miss the heat and rain, because of the cold I have had to buy over a dozen jackets and hoodies because all I ever had was a single hoodie, so I felt weird just using the one day after day as my jackets are essentially my shirts here, I never leave home without one.

Another thing is my name, nobody here can pronounce it. When I get to a class and there is roll call teachers either struggle to say it, or people can’t pronounce it at all, so I try to never  give my last name just to speed things up.

 I am also tired of getting asked where I am from as I am forced into a conversation that follows the same lines every single time “Where is that?” “How do you say your name?” “It’s where?” “What is Micronesia?” and that’s how it goes. I have gone through these same lines so many times I have actually gotten into the habit of just saying “I’m from Fiji.” At least people here know where that is and my skin color matches so they don’t question it and it ends that conversation quickly.

Fog is also a new thing to me and I remember coming here driving to my uncles place on the highway not being able to even see 10 ft in front of the car. Actually, seeing my breath for the first time in that cold fog was pretty cool and honestly I kept taking deep breaths just so I could keep seeing it.

One thing I do love is the internet because back home our internet was absolute garbage. I remember still using Dial-up back in the late 2000’s that’s how bad it was. We only got 3G back in 2014 so internet on the road away from Wi-Fi spots or ethernet cables was fairly new. Coming here where everyone is constantly online everywhere was a nice change of pace, especially speed wise as I was used to download speeds in the Kilobyte range that peaks at about 1MB and getting internet to the island was a big issue for the longest time.  

Another thing is, I am constantly lost as I never have any idea what places people are ever talking about because I have no knowledge of places here and I did not even know what a “block” was. We don’t really have street names or addresses back home,we just say the name of the place. Our streets aren’t named and homes do not have numbers assigned to them, and it’s just assumed that we all know what place we’re talking about as the Island is not so big and I can drive around it in about 3 or 4 hours. So, when being told its “5 blocks that way past this street” My first question was “how far is a block, where is this street?” and if it wasn’t for Google maps I would be lost.

Honestly when I am back home I am never scared of where I am, who I am with, or if I’m out on the town how late it is as I am never too far off from somewhere familiar or from someone I know usually within walking distance or even a shout away, but when coming here it was a bit weird seeing so many different people every day, not knowing their names, where their from, or who their family is, as back home family is important, and when you talk to someone new you usually can recognize their last name, and to me most people recognize my family’s name, and I theirs so coming here knowing that nobody can even say my last name is strange.

Seeing a lot of white people here is a bit strange as back home I am not used to it, and seeing a white guy walking around was a bit unusual as there are not many of them back home, and coming here I was not used to seeing so many white people.

Back home it’s pretty easy to run into someone familiar and quite common, and when seeing someone you do not know 9 out of 10 times you’re certain to know someone who knows them and here I must have seen hundreds of faces that I will never see again and that idea is a strange thought to me that never really occurred to me before coming here that most people here at school are people I will never see or even ever interact with.