Column: International student finds comfort after moving across the world to UA
Being an international student has its perks; people ask you hundreds of questions about where you lived and how life there differs from life here, and they ask you to say specific phrases and sentences just to hear your accent. The thrill of moving abroad to study a field you are passionate about is such an exhilarating feeling many students do not get the opportunity to experience.
The idea of traveling to an unknown country makes the college experience just that much better in so many ways; you get to meet new people from different cultures and learn about the state and country you study in as you progress slowly through your first semesters. It all seems perfect from the outside, and people will say you’re brave for leaving your previous life behind.
Moving 7,600 miles across the world was the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced; being so far away from family complicates your daily life in ways you would never have expected.
Beginning this new chapter of your life in an unfamiliar setting, alone, forces you to become independent at a faster pace than you would if your family lived nearby. The feeling of finding yourself in a foreign country you never visited before pushes you to adapt quickly in order to keep up with the daily life flow.
Never in my life had I seen a university campus besides in movies, so the first time I arrived on the UA campus was breathtaking. Palm trees and cactus populating the university reminded me of home, as Hong Kong has palm trees everywhere.
Student orientation was the most stressful experience I ever went through. Not knowing a single person or the campus itself made things difficult, leading to me getting lost several times and having to ask for directions from other students. Coming from across the world and having a delayed flight, I arrived on campus at night; no one was there to direct me toward the dorms international students stayed in during orientation. This automatically made me see the campus through a completely different eye than I did when looking at the pictures online.
Unlike students who lived in the United States, I did not have the opportunity to visit the campus prior to orientation, so walking on campus at night with no sense of direction made me unsure of my decision to come study here, due to the rush of stress and doubt.
Coming from Hong Kong, a bustling, skyscraper-populated city in Asia, to Tucson, a calm, peaceful, low-rise desert city, was a major culture shock. Going to an international British curriculum middle and high school in Hong Kong made me pick up certain British phrases and words that differ in America.
I struggled at the beginning of the fall semester as some people would not fully comprehend what I was saying; simple words like “revising” instead of “studying” left some people wondering.
Adapting to the way of living in the United States was a task that was simple yet challenging in that I had to change certain habits of mine. People here are more considerate of others than people from where I lived for the past eight years.
Holding the door for the person behind you is a simple action of courtesy that does not seem to exist or make an appearance in Hong Kong. Saying “thank you” and “please” makes life on campus much more pleasant; I grew up being taught good mannerisms from my parents, but if it had been up to the city of Hong Kong, these words would have been unknown to me.
Being an international student, traveling home can be quite the journey. Visiting family occurs two- to three-times a year. Plane flights home to Hong Kong make me sit in a seat for a total of 18 hours straight, whereas some of my friends can just get in their cars and drive for an hour to two and reach home.
The exciting first year of an international student does have times, I believe, that are more thrilling than they are to an in-state student. However, not all is fun. Leaving home to study abroad in a new country was the biggest and best decision I have made so far in my 18 years of living.
Follow Scarlett Lorin on Twitter.