The day finally came, high school graduation happened in the blink of an eye and I was ready to hop on a plane with my whole life packed in three bags and my heart racing from the uncertainty I was about to step into. After applying to multiple universities, creating multiple vision boards, journaling my anxiety away, and crying for weeks non-stop, it was surreal to believe I was about to make my dream come true. A dream many people from my country have; I felt accomplished or chosen by the Universe as I prefer to see it.
Now a year later, having completed my freshman year in the U.S as an international student I have learned that it is not easy to leave your country, your family, and your whole life behind. It is tough and it is sad but it is necessary. I believe that in life the hardest things to go through are the ones that make you grow stronger, that getting out of your comfort zone is what will make you reach your best self and get you places you would never think you could get to before.
Another thing I have learned is that culture shock is real. At first, I expected people to act a certain way because it was what I was used to, but when I encountered not only American culture but European and even Middle Eastern culture, I was surprised. I knew I was not alone in this but it was shocking to see how many people viewed something so simple like a greeting so differently than me. With time I learned to share my culture with others and to respect and learn about others as well.
The most important thing being an international student has taught me is that you may feel alone but you never are. Despite having your family and friends far away it is important to always know they are there for you every step of the way. Communicating with them is important for your mental health and your well-being so it is essential to make time for them throughout the week. Also, getting to know new people may seem scary, and it is, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it. Talk to a stranger, join an organization on campus or reach out to people on Instagram, everyone is on the same boat as you so don’t close yourself off because you’ll never know who you’ll meet and what impact they will have on your life.
It is rewarding to know that each year millions of international students around the world embark on a journey that may bring them uncertainty but will bring them amazing experiences, friends from all over the world, and a sense of independence and growth. Despite any challenge you may face it always comes down to not giving up and reminding yourself of the reasons why you are where you are today. You can do it!