Life as an international student? I think it briefly goes something like this....
Day 1: Being put on a flight to the U.S.: scary and exciting! Curious about what to expect. That feeling when you know you may not see family again for a year or more…, when you don't know what is out there..., when you don't know anything about your final destination..., except the brochure about the university or college you have been enrolled in. Sigh! it's too much to take in at a go.
Day 2: Arrival! The sights, the sounds, the culture shock. Why is everything so different?! Why is my accent so noticeable? What exactly is the American dream? Why are others so outspoken, so loud! Smh, how I long to go back to the comforts of my motherland, the safety of my mother's bosom but I am here to figure out my future, so let's see how it goes! I really need to get a sim card and call the family, my mother must be worried sick about me.
Day 3: Campus! It's a huge place! Where do I start from? Administration block? Dorms? Where are my classes going to be held? Where is the library? Orientation much? What do I do!?! WiFi? Help!?! Anyone?
Day 4: Finally settled in...I guess. Still miss home though. Still miss the carefree life of being someone's responsibility. Who would have thought that I would become the adult I looked up to? Crazy much? Seen a few African students... “I might make some new friends here,” I think. Someone should show me where to get stuff please? Ah well, we live to see another day!
Day 5: Class. Different people from different nationalities, races, tribes, cultures. So much diversity under one building. So many characters, so many people. We may have more in common than we think. We are all coming from different countries, but we wish to walk and receive our degrees in the near future. The world is our oyster, daresay we play?
Is this where it all ends? Or Is this where it has all began…
My experiences as an international student afforded me the privilege in understanding some struggles immigrants may endure. My experience did not end there, of course, but it provided the opportunity for me to reflect on who I am and how I integrated in this new world. Thoughts of incompetence, limited financial resources and feelings of loneliness became regular and the order of my days. The international student office, particularly my Designated Student Official (DSO), became my main support.
Eventually, you learn to put differences aside and move, as an act of faith, connecting with others who may hurt or discriminate against you. A risk, right? However, options appeared to be limited. You either fight or flight, eat or be eaten, dance or be left on the side lines. Irrespective of one’s choice, support became the most crucial aspect needed to survive in this new territory. As a matter of fact, support is needed to conquer these doubts and pain, among other needed resources.
I definitely do not speak for the masses but share a nibble of my journey. Irrespective of the pain, I encourage you to continue! My journey develops, I am wondering where yours begins...