That Awkward (Sad) Moment When Your Closest Family Relative is 10,000 Miles Away and the Rest of the International Student Struggle
International students make up about 10% of the student population here at Syracuse University. We have come from all around the world to the United States of America to get a strong, liberal education and better grow as individuals. But sometimes, being in a strange, foreign land far away from home is hard. So to all my international students out there, and to the American students ignorant of the #InternationalStudentStruggle, let me enlighten you:
1. We can't travel back home in a heartbeat.
This is probably the worst thing about being an international student. Travelling back home is expensive, tiring, and just not possible every time there is a holiday. (which is why I'm spending all of Thanksgiving in Day Hall, yay!)
2. We receive very small amounts of financial aid.
College is expensive, and it's even more pricey when you don't get much aid to assist you with your education. The highest amount of aid an international student can receive usually comes through a merit scholarship, but other than this, it's really hard for international students to receive a significant amount of aid.
3. The culture shock often impacts our academic performance when we first enter college.
It also impacts the way we are in some classes. In some of my classes, I find myself not understanding each and every reference the professor makes, especially because I am not American. Because we don't always understand every single thing in class, it can deter our performance in school.
4. Food is just not the same.
Home food is the best no matter where you go, but there is something special about traditional food that makes you miss it even more. What I wouldn't do for some chicken tikka or Kra Pao Kai (Thai dish)!
5. Currency conversions are a nightmare.
Within two weeks of being at Syracuse, I had already stopped converting between US dollars and Thai baht. It was just too tiring and I often found myself not buying something because if converted back to Thai baht, it would be too expensive relatively (1 USD = 35 Thai baht).
6. Stupid, stupid ENL and WRT requirements.
These classes are the worst, especially for those of us who are actually fluent in English. When I first came to Syracuse University, I was extremely upset to find out that I had to take a literal English speaking class, even though English is my first language and I took Higher Level IB English in school.
7. We can't sign up for most store cards and online premium services, because we don't have a US Social Security number.
No words can describe how annoying it is when the cashier asks you to type in your social security number, promising a really high discount and great savings, and you don't have one because you aren't American. This is frustrating when it comes to getting store cards as well.
8. We are forced into total independence, especially those of us who have no family here in the States.
I have no family in the United States, so when I chose to come here for university, I knew that I would have to be totally independent and responsible for myself. Although I receive a lot of support from Syracuse University, sometimes it can be hard and lonely.
9. The weather is seriously hard to adjust to.
I've lived in the tropics all of my life. I've never seen snow. Even temperatures of 50-60 F are pretty cold, and it took me a while to get adjusted. So far, though, I still prefer the cold here to the heat back home!
10. Time differences are a pain in the butt.
The time difference between Bangkok and Syracuse is about 12 hours, so I often find myself Skyping my parents at 3 in the morning, speaking quietly so I don't wake my roommate. It's hard to find that perfect time to call home, but I'm adjusting!
(All images taken from Flickr)