It is never an easy decision to leave everything you know, everything you are comfortable with and submerge yourself in a different country, language and culture.
That’s exactly what international students do when they leave their countries and come to the United States to pursue higher education.
Next week, many of their international journeys will come to a close as they graduate.
“It is a very bittersweet moment, like I don't want to graduate but I want to graduate,” said Jitendra Baid, an Eller student from India.
Many Americans move across the country to go to college, but often, the adjustment for international students is much larger. For many international students, the U.S. is like another world. Baid compared it to Mars, where he didn't really know anything about what it was really like to live here.
“[Coming to the U.S.] was a transformational process,” Baid said.
Navigating a new culture can be intimidating, international students deal with the fear of the unknown, learn from it and make it successfully. Many of them join the global ambassador program, a program for international students that help the UA international community to integrate to the U.S., Tucson and UA.
“Help international students to embrace their culture. Helping them to break the gap between American culture and other cultures,” said Matheo Herrera, a senior from Ecuador.
The global ambassador program opened the door to meeting new people and to finding himself, said Baid.
“When you meet different people you kinda find who you are,” Baid said.
Being an international student involves more than going to classes, doing homework and studying; it is a whole experience. International students have to acclimate themselves to a different language, culture and lifestyle.
Even though Ola Allababidi, a senior from Syria, has traveled to different countries, coming to UA was her first time in the U.S. It also was the first time she had to communicate in her second language, English, more than her mother tongue, Arabic.
“It was a big move,” said Allababidi. “It is just one door that I am closing and I am waiting for the next one to open up.”
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Herrera said Tucson is based around the UA, which defines the city’s identity.
Agreeing with Herrera, Baid described Tucson as the perfect college town for the same reasons; it is small and surrounded by the university.
“[Tucson] is a desert, but it still has its own nature,” Allababidi said.
Allababidi said she loves Tucson’s weather.
“There's always a nice breeze in Tucson, whether that's the summer or the spring or whatever.” Allababidi said.
Allababidi, who will likely leave Tucson after she graduates, said she will miss the Environmental and Natural Resources 2 building, where she used to study.
Baid and Herrera said they will miss Tucson’s sunsets, Mount Lemmon and the desert scenery.
During their time in the U.S., Tucson and UA, these international students said they were happy with their American college experience, and they feel ready to start the next chapter in their lives.
“I had a lot of fun in my time in the UA,” said Herrera, who is hoping to land a job in the U.S.
Baid will go back home to India to start his own business.
“The best part of the whole experience is the people that I got to meet and how they change everything,” Allababidi said.
*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
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