Heading off to college is a crucial transition for anyone going through it. I know I was worried about being “far” from home when I was a freshman, and I only had to drive two hours to get here. Typically, it’s considered pretty courageous to travel all the way across the county for school, but imagine going almost six thousand miles.
Jaime Lacson, a freshman Political Science major here at SCU did just that. He’s from Guam, and island in the Western Pacific about 1500 miles East of the Philippines. Most people think Jaime is from another country when they hear he’s from Guam, and assume life is vastly different there. However, he explained that since Guam is a U.S. territory, most major aspects of life are basically the same. The education system and pop culture are nearly identical, so Jaime is pretty comfortable in every day conversations.
Jaime noticed a lot of little differences first. Being introduced to seemingly insignificant and dissimilar customs can be difficult. In Guam – and nearly everywhere else in the world – men always greet women with a kiss on the cheek, whether they already know one another or not. Also, the rule not to eat until everyone at the table has food is far more strict in Guam. As Jaime saw people bypass these social rules, he started to think Californians were cold and rude. As he’s spent more time here though, he’s come to understand the acceptable range of politeness and is totally assimilated.
Jaime says that the most frustrating cultural boundary comes from people assuming Guam is a completely foreign place and nothing like America. Even though the island is closer to China than it is to California, it’s not all that different. “If anything, the biggest effect of my background is the misconception that follows it.” Jaime explained. “Because Guam is such a mystery to most people, I’ve been asked the most bizarre questions like ‘Do they have cars there?’ and ‘have you ever tried McDonalds?’”
Beyond some initial inconveniences, Jaime loves living and going to school here. An aspect of the school and area that Jaime particularly appreciates is the openness and diversity of culture. Guam is 97% Catholic, so the atmosphere is a bit more rigid in its acceptance of religions. Also, with this overwhelming majority comes more religion in popular culture and every day life. Jaime is refreshed by the tolerance of Agnosticism and Atheism here, as it is far more taboo in Guam. By sheer numbers, life is a bit tilted toward Catholicism in Guam, whether it be in the media or just everyday activities. This allows for an open-minded discussion environment that has helped Jaime learn and grow personally.
Jaime plans to apply to East coast law schools in the hopes of pursuing a career as an attorney. He wants to explore different parts of the mainland while he is young. He explains “Guam is such a great place to raise a family so I can definitely see myself moving back at some point,” he said. “But I would
like to spend the rest of my 2’s out here or somewhere else abroad. I want to have fun for a while before going home.” Northern California has been a great starting point for Jaime in his exploration of the country and world, and he looks forward to finding out what’s in store for the rest of his time here. And if he ever gets tired of exploring, he has this to come home to.