The United States of America is a democratic society. I came from Ukraine, which is also a democratic society nowadays, but only for a little more than ten years, and the difference between the patterns of people’s behavior and interaction in the USA and Ukraine is very big. What I see in America teaches me that democracy is not just some formal political procedures allowing all the citizens to take part in making the government and influence its politics.
Democracy, first of all, implies a society consisting of responsible and self-sufficient individuals, individuals that have high self-esteem, and, therefore, fully respect self-esteem of others. Democracy means that these free and responsible individuals engage in collaborative work and solve common social problems, as long as they can it, without the aid of state. That is, democracy is also a proper collaboration between people. I came to America in January, 2003, as an undergraduate student.
My experience of the American life mainly has to do with the education, college and campus life. Nevertheless, such places attract lots of young and active people and are supposed to provide them the skills and knowledge required for obtaining a decent life in the future. Therefore, what can be observed in this environment is one of the best examples of the American system that a foreigner can learn from. My first great impression was the system of higher education adopted in the USA. In Ukraine, where I started my higher education, students can choose their faculty.
Actually, that is the only freedom they are given in Ukrainian universities. Later, until the graduating, everything is scheduled for us by the faculty authorities and lecturers. We are not able to choose whether to study a particular course or not, even if we certainly do not need some of the courses. We are not able choose whether to attend lectures of a particular lecturer or not, even if the quality of his/her lectures is far from excellent. We are denied the self responsibility, which is the cornerstone of the American system of higher education.
Here I can pick up my own schedule; moreover, the greater emphasis is put on self-education instead of just “consuming” the information prepared by the lecturer. The results are twofold. First, I have to think much harder and much more accurately in order to figure out what is really of primary importance for me. Second, I need to engage in active communication with other people, who can help me to decide, which choice is the best choice. Participation in campus and community activities is strongly needed for knowing other people and this is one of the steps in the whole process of acquiring the skills of social interaction.
I am also very much impressed by the amount of people who volunteer their time and efforts to serve their community needs. It differs considerably from my previous image of American life as only money-driven. Of course, people need to secure their economic positions, and students learn for getting a job that will support them in the future, but this is only one side of the coin. As I see here, people know that well-being of their country depends on their ability to unite in solving common problems. The society is built on principles of mutual respect, support and collaboration.
Its members do not wait for the government to improve the life of their communities; they do everything possible to manage it themselves. Naturally, after I had realized it, I decided to participate in this work too. Now I am involved in the preschool education as volunteer teaching kids drawing skills. I also work as administrative assistant for AMBAR for free. In Ukraine, where I was raised, the influence of totalitarian ideology, psychology and culture still prevails. Most people are not able to take full responsibility for their own lives.
Consequently, they cannot take full responsibility for the well-being of their society either. The American experience totally changed my views on the proper making of life. Here, in America, I know that everything is possible if one works hard and does not expect that someone else will solve his problems. But I also know that while doing this one will have support from the rest of society. I will do everything to get the best possible education in order to help myself, to help other people and to make this world better.
Courtney from Study Moose
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