Celebrate International Students
Being an international student means traveling thousands of miles away from your parents to study with students who come from a culture that is completely different from yours. Being an international student comes with its struggles and challenges. It also means that just hearing your mother coughing on the phone or seeing your brother having a fever over Facetime can make you feel worried the whole day.
November 17th is International Students Day, a day that reminds international students of our motives when coming to America and encourages us to constantly try to meet our objectives. It also exists to remind Americans about the international students on their campus, remembering that each international student has a story to tell. We can teach American students to maintain an open mindset and learn to respect other countries’ culture and customs.
Even though coming from Vietnam to study in America is a huge sacrifice, I have grown greatly and gained skills I never thought I could gain if I were in Vietnam. I have had many unforgettable experiences that helped shape my personality. I want to take this day to share what lessons I have learned from studying abroad through my experiences.
Remember that you are not alone
That’s right! International students, even if you don’t know anyone on campus, visit your International Student Center. The office is a great resource to help you adapt to your life on campus and life in America. You will make international friends who will “survive” 4 years of college with you. And if you have any questions related to your visa, work authorization, or financial aid, this is the office to go to for answers. In my sophomore year, I signed up to be an International Ambassador in which I’m assigned 10 incoming international students. I help them get familiarized with campus, college classes, and get them more involved with activities around campus. I use this opportunity to make friends with more international students on campus and learn more about their culture.
Room with American students at least the first two semesters
This will help you adjust to the American culture and helps with improving your English skills. I started studying English as a compulsory subject in school since I was 6, but learning English in school and having conversations with Americans is a very different experience. Also, having a friend to tell about your hometown and your family is one of the best way to adjust to your journey in America.
Embrace your culture but don’t forget to learn to love American culture
Even though people talk about America around the world and seem to know about American culture, it’s not until actually coming to America that one can “know” about the culture. I learned how different people from northern and southern America are, not only in their accent, but their hobbies and personalities, too.
Learn to understand American jokes
This can take a long time and be extremely hard to do. Different cultures have different personalities. Sometimes I still don’t know how I should maintain a conversation with an American. How I should react when he/she makes a joke that I don’t understand?
Try to be more involved with activities on campus
This is an awesome way for you to learn new things and an opportunity for you to make friends with other students. Find something you love or are passionate about and get involved. Before you know it, you’ll be surrounded with people who are not only your friends but also your mentors. I’ve always had a passion for public speaking. Being involved in my school’s speech team gives me the opportunity to talk about issues I care about the most and to travel to different colleges across America for competitions. Through this, I’ve learned about the different issues America is facing and have listened to other students’ opinions about them. At the same time, I was perfecting my English skills.
Expect the unexpected
I want to end my blog with one experience that I will never forget. This incident happened only a few days after I arrived in America. My friend and I were trying to find our way to a local church one Sunday and we ended up walking on the highway for almost two hours. We even saw a dead deer on the side of the road (my very first time seeing a deer.) And although my cell phone did not have service, it still allowed me to make an emergency call to 911. Unfortunately without phone service the 911 operator was unable to locate us to send help. But a little while later, a couple stopped their car on the highway and took us to the church. That was an extremely unexpected thing and it made me realize how welcoming American people are!
International students – remember that you are strong, intelligent, unique and you came to America for a reason. Be encouraged and motivated by that reason. Share your culture as you learn about American culture. Try your best and make yourself stand out!