Many of us here a HerCampus, can’t imagine what it would feel like to only be able to go home once or twice a year. The innability to go home, to feel the warmth of a parent’s love, the confort of their own room or the presence of a close friend, is an adversity many international students face. Thankfully, some amazing students at UCLA, have created a program that connects incomming international students with UCLA mentors. These mentors help guide the international students through an incredibly difficult transitioning period . For this week’s campus profile we’d like to introduce one of those amazing UCLA students, Kopal Seth, founding member of Bruins beyond borders.
Name: Kopal Seth
Major: Psychology, economics
Tell us about your program and why you created it.
I’m really passionate about Bruins beyond borders. It’s a program under the International Students Association. incoming international students will receive a mentor during the summer, who will give them insight into life as a UCLA student and answer their questions before they arrive.This is incredibly important because there is only so much information you can find online and not everyone is comfortable reaching out to the university departments. It’s just different talking to a peer. This mentorship will continue when they reach UCLA so that they will always have someone looking out for them, making them feel comfortable in their new home
Why did you want to create this program?
As a freshman I had a really tough time adjusting to a huge college like UCLA. My high school was really small and going from 20 people in a class to 400 people was really different. It’s very easy to feel lost at UCLA and often international students sometimes feel a little under appreciated and underserved. The Dashew Centre does a great job of providing us with help but with their limited size and funds, there is only so much they can do too. I remember someone telling me about a mentor they had and how helpful they were and started wondering why there weren’t any international student mentorship programs.
I wanted to make sure that the incoming international students felt like they belonged in the Bruin family and were valued as a part of the student body. I reached out to a lot of friends to ask for their thoughts to see if the program had any potential. Some people told me it was too much work, that there’d be too many people. However, some people were super supportive and positive, so I decided to talk to ISA about it and got approval to start the program.
What are some challenges international students face in attending UCLA?
Coming from halfway across the world adjusting to college is twice as hard for international students as it is for domestic students. Not only do we have to learn how to live on our own, but we also have to learn how to live thousands of miles away from home. The homesickness is very much magnified for international students.We don’t have the luxury of going home for weekends or thanksgiving break. Most international students probably go home one or two times a year. It’s much harder to adjust to college when you don’t have the option of escaping home, even for a weekend, when the stress of it gets to be too much.
Another reason why it’s harder to adjust to college life, is the fact that a lot of the things that come naturally to domestic students are not obvious to international students due to cultural differences. That is not to say that international students are unaware of a lot of American culture. Media, the news, Facebook, TV shows, movies and the Internet have exposed us to a lot of American culture. But it’s the little things that aren’t in focus that nonetheless play an important part of daily life.
What are some of those ‘little things’?
What brand of milk to buy, what soap is good, little things like that. Another daily challenge for me is converting British English to American English words. You’ll find me calling the elevator the “lift” all the time and receiving confused looks. Or even just writing ‘colour’ instead of ‘color’. Apart from all these little things, most students often feel like they’re trying to navigate a maze. There are so many resources available on campus, but we just don’t know about them. While there are efforts to bring awareness to students of the resources offered to them, most of the times we are unaware of them.
Have you faced any difficulties in creating this program?
It is a little late but we’re trying our best to get it started before this summer so that the incoming batch of international students can take advantage of the program. I was really glad to get an enthusiastic response from my assistant director and really good friend Kaviya Garg. She was one of my first friends at UCLA and really helped me through my first quarter even though she was just a freshman herself. So it’s even more special that she helped me cofound this program that will help many other international students. I don’t know how I could have managed my 19 units this quarter, new job as an AAP Peer learning facilitator, recent obsession with how i met your mother and starting Bruins beyond borders.
What’s your favorite aspect of UCLA?
My favourite thing about UCLA is that it’s a place where every student can find thier own place. If you want to go to class in pajamas, gym clothes, dressed up in nice clothes or even formal wear you’ll never feel out of place! Not only is everyone really accepting and friendly, there is also an amazing balance of academic and social life which makes UCLA students so well rounded! My favourite place on camps is the inverted fountain. It’s just a different world being there it makes you forget about all your worries. Or the couches at Powell they’re perfect for sleeping haha.
What do you look forward to in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to being a junior and moving into my very first apartment with some of my closest friends. But it’s really weird to think I’ll be a junior next year.
Excited to see what the next year has in store for me!
If you would like to apply to be a mentor for Bruins Beyond Borders apply through this link! http://bit.ly/b3mentorship
Photography provided by Helen Zapata