Upon meeting someone, it usually takes a person about 30 seconds to realize I am not American. As soon as I open my mouth to say something, people on campus realize I am an international student, and a sassy one at that.
Some of the questions that I get asked on a regular basis as an international student invlude, “Why did you come to America?”, “What language are you dreaming in?”, “Where do you want to live in the future?”
If you are really interested in what life is like as an international student in America, then keep reading because I have some insights for you.
- You can’t hide your identity
It’s not just your accent and name that turns you in, it’s the way you look and dress. It’s the way you talk and walk, and there might be something in your eyes that just screams – DIFFERENT. My advice to other international students would be to enjoy it, and take advantage of your difference. The different side in you is the one thing that will help you stand out.
- You need to get used to the unique language
As an international student there are quite a few American sayings that I struggled with understanding at first. Some of these sayings that didn’t “ring a bell” when I first heard them included, “The best thing since sliced bread”, or to be “held on by a thread”, “once in a blue moon.” How about saying “Yup”, instead of thank-you? or giving you “the cold shoulder” when you accidentally “drive someone up the wall”? can someone get a “penny for my thoughts” here?
- You represent your country, everyday, even if you don’t want to
International students don’t need to wear their country’s flag around their back to represent their country or ethnic identity. They can however, represent their home countries positively by treating others with respect and kindness. Also with their opinions, habits, gestures and behavior. As an international student, you are an ambassador of your country, everyday. Even if you don’t want to be, so remember that.
- My gosh, those papers are hard
Grammar can be your worst enemy as a student in a country outside of your home language. As an international student simple grammar as well as vocabulary sometimes just doesn’t make sense in your brain.The worst of all is trying to master proper spelling! While these may seem like challenges at first, luckily with spell check these mistakes can be corrected. In my opinion, spell check is the best thing since sliced bread.
- Being misunderstood
This thing that I wanted to say made perfect sense in my head, but here I am standing with this american who is trying to help me but doesn’t seem to guess what I want. Is it the way I pronounce and express myself? Being misunderstood can be frustrating and disheartening as an international student.
- American food?!
Let me just say, peanut butter and jelly is weird! But that’s only the beginning of it. Why is there so much candy everywhere? What are these easy prep kits for meals? And these “just add water” formulas to the most complex dishes? It seems to me that everything is frozen and process. Can we go back to the simple life please? I really don’t want to get fat while living here. Luckily, campus has many healthy options that I choose from.
There is no cure for a case of homesickness. Somedays are just harder than others. There are days where your brain fails to cooperate in correct English, days where you just wish you could go to your favorite restaurant at home and eat the food you are used to, and days where you really wish your parents could share with you or moments where it would have been swell to just listen to the radio in your native language. While you can’t recreate traditional things that you love from your home country, you can do some of the American things that you love to help cheer you up!
Despite the challenges I have faced and overcome, I love America. Specifically, Eastern Michigan University have given me a lifetime experience from every possible perspective.
I wouldn’t trade the experience of studying at EMU for anything. The people I have met, the education I have received, and the sports team I am a part of are some of the best opportunities I could ever ask for in life.
To any international students, just remember, it’s okay to be different, and to have different biases and experiences. The challenges internationals are facing will only make us stronger, and we are lucky enough to have our university proud of the national and international diversity. Indeed, YouAreWelcomeHere!
Michal Liberman is an EMU swimmer and junior majoring in public relations and is swimmer. She is from Israel, works part time in the EMU Division of Communications and is featured in EMU’s #YouAreWelcomeHere banner campaign.