Life as an International Student

Asweifieni Idada, Student Writer

Have you ever wondered what it is like to school outside your country?  If you have not, at least you know one or more people who have, some of whom may be taking the same classes as you.  When you see them, what goes through your mind?  Could it be why are they here or I’m glad to have an opportunity to learn about another person’s culture without having to go out of my comfort zone.

There are a variety of reasons why students go to other countries such as the United States to acquire education. This could range from quality of education, unique curriculum, multicultural diversity, up-to-date technology, job opportunities and more. While all these looks excitingly attractive, it comes with its own challenges. First is getting the finance required for tuition, books, accommodation, food and transportation, next is scaling the hurdle of obtaining a student’s visa.  Once you land on the shores of America, then you are faced with other issues such as weather and language (depending on where you are coming from), how to find your way around, where to find the food that you are accustomed to and how to get a buddy, if you do not have a friend or relative, that can help you settle down sooner to enable you focus on your studies.

Andre a foreign student from Asia had to make extra effort to overcome the language barrier on arrival in the United States.  Emmanuel from Africa had a culture shock with respect to mode of dressing and food.  He said, ‘my experience with eating ‘sushi’ for the first time was not a palatable one as I did not realize that the food was made with raw fish’. My own culture shock is how people walk past one another daily without saying hello, whether as classmates, neighbors or colleagues.  I remember how excited I was at my first day in class and coming from a culture where it is customary to greet, I said good morning to my colleagues and to my greatest surprise not even one person acknowledged my greeting.  I gradually got to learn that’s how people get along here.  ‘Different strokes for different folks’ as the saying go.

Chinedum, an international student from Nigeria said settling down for him was not an issue because the agency that facilitated his admission took care of accommodation and transportation. He said he is excited about school and meeting new people, especially learning about their culture. The area he finds challenging is with the “provision of jobs for foreign students despite being legally accepted to be in the United States, there’s little to nothing we can do about getting a job”.

Thankfully, Houston Community College (HCC) acclaimed to be one of the schools with the highest number of students of diverse nationalities has several resources to address students’ needs. The office of international students provides orientation and career counselling to educate students, while the Students Life body organizes career fairs amongst others to give students internship and career opportunities.

Life as an international student does have its challenges, so when next you come across one, please ask them how they are doing.  That show of care and concern will make a load of difference.