A new semester begins at Hofstra University and once again, the MISPO (Multicultural and International Student Programs Office) buzzes with the excitement of new faces, experiences, and tell-tales of transitioning into a new culture. The first week of class brings a whole set of new challenges and surprises for our international students, some common trends and others more specific to each individual. For instance, most of our students are not thrilled about winter (“… having to wear all these jackets…”), are puzzled by –or rather, by the lack of –public transportation methods (“I waited for the bus for two hours!”), and are in general, pleasantly surprised by college life in the United States and the friendliness of their professors (“professors are always available and ready to talk”). Some transitions are inherent to the level of education or career pursued, such as achieving a healthy balance between working and studying and time management, and others to New York, such as learning to use the subway/train and finding available parking.
|Hyderabad, India, "City of Pearls"|
Anishaa, a graduate student from Hyderabad, India, is still adapting to the currency. She is used to rupees and whole units, not to cents of dollars that come in the shape of many coins. She is also adjusting to the weather, as expected, and to a new educational system, which she finds to be “very syllabus-oriented” and based on conversations with your peers and professors (as opposed to a more lecture-focused style). She has also noticed that professors tend to quote local experts in the field and that “everyone seems to know each other,” a common and sometimes uneasy feeling. As a former international student, I cannot help but sympathize: having to start a life in an environment where you do not have any friends or family can indeed be very nerve-wrecking! On the other hand, Anishaa loves how everything is conveniently available on campus (particularly coffee!), feels more secure in her community, and appreciates how clear assignments are outlined on the syllabus, allowing her to plan ahead of time.
|Ciudad de Guatemala, "Guate", Guatemala|
Undergraduate student Roberto, originally from Ciudad Guatemala, Guatemala, brought up the point that as a high school graduate who lived a year in London, his challenges were more related to being in a college environment for the first time rather than to adapting to a new culture. Roberto is currently taking five classes and had envisioned a life of study-filled afternoons and sleep-deprived evenings in order to succeed. To his surprise, he has discovered that while he does invest a great deal of his time on school-related work, he also has time to socialize and discover co-curricular activities at Hofstra University, as long as he plans ahead and studies in advance. Although he is still a bit anxious about his academic success and sometimes has trouble sleeping, Roberto is very happy with the opportunity to live on his own in one of our residence halls and take advantage of this: “I told a friend in Guatemala that due to the proximity of the halls to the classes, I can take naps in between classes!” Just as Anishaa, Roberto would love to learn more about the employment opportunities available to international students at Hofstra University, especially in Res Life.
|Jeddah, "The Bride of the Red Sea," Saudi Arabia|
Mai is from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and moved to Saint Louis five years ago in the company of her husband. There, their little daughter Maya was born. The family recently moved to New York and are still acclimatizing to the “aggressive traffic” and the difficulties of navigating the bus system. Using the exact change, not knowing the correct bus schedule and direction of the buses, and the confusing distribution of the bus stops seemed very discouraging last week, when Mai ended up walking home after a frustrated attempt to catch the bus to her neighborhood. However, Mai is very excited about Hofstra University and her graduate program, as well as with the fact that she can find food from home available in her community. Mai juggles the great responsibilities of being a graduate student, a wife, and a mother to a small child. While Mai seems to be always alert, her daughter Maya also seems to enjoy life on campus (having attended Orientation with her mother) and has already charmed some of the staff at MISPO.
As the second week of class fades away, I cannot help but reflect on my pleasant and sometimes difficult journeys as both a high school and a graduate international student in the United States. In both cases, my professors and the student affairs personnel in charge of international/immigrant students truly made the difference and would later influence my career path. I now hope to give some of this magic back to our students at Hofstra University!
Assistant Director, MISPO
Pictures source: Wikipedia.org