I am currently a freshman here at UIC. It’s been a month since I’ve moved here. I recently moved to the US from Dubai, which is where I am from. Moving to another country that’s culture is completely alien compared to mine scared the shit out of me. High school was a complete hellhole for me, and I saw college as the cliched way every international student sees it – a second chance. I thought college would be a way for me to find myself and meet new people. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Like many other journeys, there are peaks and valleys that come in your way.
Staying connected to your loved ones is one of biggest struggles I have faced. When you are finally free sometime in the afternoon to Skype with your family to get some details about when my niece started to crawl, but realize it’s midnight there. Or to find out your friends are having a good time in college and made some new best friends on their Instagram feed instead of finding out from them. Time difference can be one of the biggest enemies to an international student. Making new friends is hard especially when there are gaps in your pop culture knowledge or pronouncing words differently than they do. And you realize the British-English language, that you’ve learned, and the American-English language are not the same. For example, the word “rubber” means “eraser” and the word “jumper” means “sweater.” When you have no idea about the American currency and always wonder why do they do have so many coins? I am still overwhelmed by the huge portions of food served in restaurants. Then, of course, there are stereotypes. I admit I am not perfect, and I am sometimes found guilty of stereotyping people. Oh boy, I would be a trillionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me whether my major is engineering or business. My major is English.
Being an international student has its own perks. Meeting people from different backgrounds and learning a new culture is pretty cool and intriguing. In return, people are always interested in where I came from. I couldn’t count the number of times of people looking at me with awe when I say I am from Dubai as if I am a fairy who has come from a magical kingdom. All the cliches and overused phrases that we, international students, have heard over a thousand times does have some truth to it. You really do find yourself. Being alone all by yourself in a new country gives you the biggest reality check of your life. As an international student, you have no choice but to put on your big adult pants on and start to fend for yourself. I had just started my journey, and I am excited but secretly scared, and I am peeing in my pants for what’s about to come in the future. After going through tough times where I felt like just giving up, I still remind myself how far I have come to this point and how I still have quite a long way to go.