Insider's Guide to High School

What If Your New College Friends Can’t Find Your Home Country On A World Map?

YJI reporter Evangeline Han on her arrival in the United States on August 13, 2013, after a 32-hour journey with little sleep. (YJI)

SHAWNEE, Oklahoma, U.S.A. – A year ago, I flew from my home in Melaka, Malaysia to the United States to go to college at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. I did not know a single person in Oklahoma, I had never visited the campus for a tour, and I had never been to an American college.

If this sounds familiar, then you are probably an international student just like me. And if you are going to be an international student, I have a few tips for you.

1) Be excited. Going to college in a foreign country is an adventure. As an international student, you are special and unique. Some of your college friends have probably never traveled outside of their state. Whether it is your accent or looks, people around you will immediately notice that you are different. You bring diversity to your college.

2) Be prepared for weird questions. Since there may be many students at your college who have not traveled outside of their state, most students probably do not know where your country is on the world map. Lots of them will ask questions that might seem dumb, but just smile and answer politely. You can laugh about it with your international friends later.

3) Be prepared to work hard. There is more responsibility and the stakes are higher since you are on a student visa. The last thing you want is
to be put on a plane back home because you are failing your classes and not meeting the required number of credit hours you need as an international student. Not only are you adjusting to college life, but you are also adjusting to college life in a foreign country.

4) Be prepared to make new friends. If you are planning to adjust quickly, make new friends. Some universities, like mine, have a strong international group. This means that the likelihood of your close friends being international students is higher. Sometimes, this can be easier since they are the ones who better understand your joys and struggles. If you find that the international students in your new university do not hang out together as much as you wish they would, do not fret. It is good to make friends who are locals.

Whatever happens in the next few months, remember that it is all part of the experience. Whether you want it or not, when you return to your home country, you will be a different person. You will have seen and experienced things that your friends back home have not.

Embrace it, have fun, and live life.

Evangeline Han is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.