Being an international student for three years has been a struggle at times, but then again it’s the most life-changing experience that I’ve been through. From being an “alien” in the legal sense (and actually feeling like one), to having to survive in a primarily white environment, this experience has been tougher than what it seemed when the guys from admissions came to my high school in Colombia.
It all looked so fun, so promising…and it was! Sometimes. Being in a city like Boston meant that there were tons of other international students, yet I was still part of a minority. Something that I didn’t experience growing up. Nevertheless, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet incredible people from all over the globe and learn more about their cultures and countries. Now that my years as an undergrad are coming to an end, I think it’s time to re-cap on the things that have made this experience unique and unforgettable.
1. Feeling jet-lagged during the first week of class.
Sorry professor, I just got back from the future (or past, depending on where home is).
2. You secretly feel jealous of domestic students on move-in day.
While they could have their parents drive them and bring tons of things from home, you have to conform with one suitcase and a few things you bought last-minute at the campus store.
3. The constant paranoia that everyone is always judging your accent.
The questions they ask make you feel even more self-conscious. “When did you start learning English?” Umm, why do you wanna know? Are you the language police?
4. You’re still getting used to the huge food portions.
But eventually you learn to share plates with your other international friends.
5. You get annoyed whenever people ask you stereotypical questions about your country.
The fact that I come from a “third world” country does not mean that I live in an “uncivilized” jungle.
6. Feeling in the spotlight whenever a subject about your country or culture comes up in class.
Everyone turns to you for answers. “I mean, you must be an expert on this topic.”
7. You feel weird about not having to worry about safety too much.
If you see me clinging on to my purse it’s because I was taught to be hyper-aware of my surroundings.
8. You miss the legal drinking age back home.
You waited 18 years to legally drink, now you have to wait three more to do it in this country.
9. Feeling judged whenever you show your international ID.
“Do you have a passport or anything else that can verify your identity?”
10. You wish you could work, but on-campus jobs are very competitive.
After all, they’re the only ones international students have access to.
11. You feel weird about giving your opinion on American issues.
I mean, we don’t really have school shootings back home, so it’s difficult to understand why it’s a thing here…
12. Feeling alone in the dorms during Thanksgiving and long weekends.
No, I don’t have a private jet to fly across the world for a weekend.
13. Having to answer your parents’ calls at inappropriate times.
I get it we’re in different time zones, but my roommate is trying to sleep, mom.
14. You frequently obsess over the safety of your I-20.
What if you lose it while traveling? What if your coffee spills over it? What if aliens kidnap it?
15. You’re still getting used to everyone being on time for everything.
Back home you were taught to be fashionably late.
16. You still don’t “get” American parties.
They start too early, everyone seems to be on a race to get drunk and throw up, and the cops bust them anyway.
17. Remembering to sign your I-20 only a few days before leaving the country.
And then having to rush to the international students’ office to get it signed.
18. You’re still getting used to the long summers.
What am I gonna do for four long months?!
19. Plus, your vacations never coincide with that of your friends back home.
Which explains why you’re always home and bored when no one else is.
20. Feeling powerful at immigration when they ask you for your I-20 and you actually have it.
Safe and sound. You made it to America.
21. You have become prouder of your country.
Being away for so long ironically made you appreciate it even more.
22. The fear and stress caused by graduation, OPT, CPT’s, and all that jazz.
Do I really only have 12 months after graduation to work?!
23. The confusion of not knowing where home is.
That college town was your home for four years, and now you’re basically kicked out.
24. You feel homesick every time you’re not there to celebrate a holiday.
And feel even worse when you see pictures of your friends celebrating it without you.
25. But, you know your international buddies got your back.
After all, they’re the only ones who get the struggle.