Thursday, November 19, 2015

How I Adapted to Public Transportation in the U.S.

By Jewel Taylor
Student Ambassador, 
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

It’s never easy traveling to a new country and embracing a new culture. Being an international student is a difficult, yet rewarding experience that presents many educational and career opportunities. My exposure to a new country, culture, and language helped my personal development as well as relationship building with people of other cultures. I was able to adapt to multiple challenges as a new student in the U.S., many of which were with public transportation.

Being an international student is better experienced rather than explained; each individual has his or her own views and tolerance levels to different situations. For me, the greatest challenge to come from being an international student in the United States was adapting to public transportation systems in the country, specifically in Chicago, where I currently reside.

As someone who comes from The Bahamas
a rather small countryI noticed that our public transportation system was completely different from that of Chicago. For example, Bahamian public transportation consists of only buses, which run different routes at certain times, with each route identified by specific numbers. Although bus stops are located at specific locations in the Bahamas, drivers will stop for those who flag them down, or who yell “bus stop” to get off. 

In Chicago, buses only drop off or pick people up at the designated stops. To disembark the bus, you have to pull a cord located on the side of the bus to indicate to the driver to stop at the next corner. Train stations only take Ventra cards instead of cash, and both trains and buses are almost always packed with passengers.

Although it was a difficult transition, I adjusted to Chicago’s transportation system in a couple of different ways: I asked people for advice on taking the buses and trains, and I received informational and helpful tips. I also asked the bus drivers and train station employees about information on schedules and routes. Luckily, we live in a technologically advanced era, which is helpful for situations like the one I was in. I downloaded an app that gave information on bus routes and the estimated times they would arrive at specific stops. Furthermore, I downloaded the daily bus and train routes to get accustomed to them.

Based on my experiences with using public transportation, here are a few helpful tips for international students traveling to a new country who will have to rely on public transportation:

  • Research the public transportation system in the city to which you’re traveling. By researching this information, you can adjust to the ins and outs of the transportation system.
  • Call the bus and train station headquarters. By calling these organizations, you can receive information about the trains and buses that you may not be able to find on the website.
  • Look at travel websites to find helpful information for international students and tourists. 
  • Ask the organization you’re using for travel about the transportation system. For example, if you’re traveling for educational purposes, ask your college about the train and bus types in the area. Although they might not have all the answers your questions, there is a good chance they can direct you to another source that may.
I hope this helps you to successfully adjust to transportation in the U.S.!
Jewel Taylor holds a bachelor’s in psychology from the College of the Bahamas and is working toward a master’s in forensic psychology. She will soon matriculate at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She describes herself as a fun, free spirited young lady who loves and serves The Lord. She is from the Bahamas.

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