International Student Profile: Riyah

Name: Riyah (undisclosed last name)

School: UC Berkeley

Year: Freshman

Major: Economics

Hometown: Lahore, Pakistan

What made you decide to come to UC Berkeley? I didn’t want to come here initially. I was considering the London School of Economics, but when I visited California, I fell in love! Also UC Berkeley has a really good economics program, so I was really excited about that. The culture of Berkeley is much more liberal than the culture of Pakistan and I was super excited to immerse myself. 

Is this your first time living in America? How does it differ from Pakistan? Yes, this is the first time I’ve lived in America before, but I have visited New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California. Living in America is nice and I really love the people in Berkeley. They’re very sweet, friendly, welcoming, and understanding of different cultures. In Pakistan there aren’t many different cultures so there isn’t much opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds. 

How do the school systems differ? I went to a British school with an accumulative system where you study only four subjects over two years and then take exams for everything you’ve learned over those two years, which is really tough. My four subjects were poly sci, history, math, and econ, and I love econ. Here, I really like the flexibility in that you can explore a lot of different subjects. I actually really like L&S’s breadth requirements, because it makes me explore new things. 

Do you have any other family currently in America? Yes. My twin sister Hanya is here at Berkeley with me and my brother Saif is at Columbia University in New York. 

How well have you been able to adjust to UC Berkeley and America in general? What or who has helped you through the process? I’d say I’m about half adjusted, but I definitely need more time. My floor mates are really nice and supportive. I have also met a lot of other international students and we all know what everyone else is going through. Also just having my sister here is great because I can see her any time and it helps me with homesickness. 

Have there been any culture shocks for you here? The food, especially in the dining halls, is not up to par! I really miss biryani [spiced rice with chicken] from home and it’s one of the things I’m most excited about for winter break. 

Do you have any advice for future international students? Don’t try to change your accent! It doesn’t work and it’s a waste of energy! Also Fahrenheit is weird.