Top 4 Struggles of an International Student in The US

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Arushi Sachan, February 2017

Being a third culture kid born and bought up in the city blooming with internationalism- Dubai, I’ve never really ‘belonged’ to any specific country; I considered the world as my home. Fortunately, so did my parents; they let me spread my wings and fly beyond horizons. Ever since I could remember, I would spend all my breaks traveling abroad- be it spring, summer or fall.

One day, the time came when I had to move – this time not with just a bag pack, but a few sturdy cardboard boxes and two huge suitcases. It took a long time before it hit me – I was actually about to cross two oceans, five seas and 7,000 miles to spend a little more time than just ‘temporary’ in the United States for studies. So the apprehension struck me and slowly began to take over, ‘this time, I won’t be coming back for a long time’. A natural bombardment of mixed emotions for an ordinary teenager whose life was about to transform.

It’s been almost 3 years now, since I came here. I have learnt a lot about America and am still learning. However, just like any new immigrant, I had also once experienced a culture shock as I realized that traveling temporarily and living/settling in a new place are two completely different things!

I came up with a list of  Top 4 struggles that you’d generally experience being an international student in the US

  • Expectations vs Realityphoto-feb-27-5

    Arushi Sachan, May 2016 @ The Quad, James Madison University

America is perceived to be one of the most, if not the only country with an extremely liberal mindset. People from all over the world dream about coming here to make a career and gain ‘freedom’, a word that implies both, honey and money.  The truth, I found out, is that America is just like any other country, only a little of what mainstream media actually portrays it to be. I came here to realize that I quickly fit in, and had a few of my ‘fairytale’-like expectations crushed. For instance, New York City wasn’t as clean as I had seen it in Devil wears Prada, being a rebel and challenging authorities isn’t a thing for American’s, and if you’d party like the kids in American Pie, you’d probably end up never getting a degree!

Hard work is the key and people work really hard here. Every penny earned is ounces of sweat released. It was sad, but refreshing to realize that America isn’t what it is stereotyped to be around le monde.

 

  • Collectivist vs Individualistic Culturephoto-feb-27-2

International Orientation Fall Intake, August 2016 @ Godwin, James Madison University

Being Asian, I have values of a very collectivist culture- ‘let’s share food’, ‘I’ll wait till you get to level 3 as well’, ‘I’m dining with my family’- which aren’t common things in the US. People find a certain kind of comfortability in being alone and independent. By the time a kid turns 18, she is considered an adult, required to perform adult duties and ‘take care of herself’ or many times even ‘pay for herself’.

It took me a long time to appreciate and get used to the individualist society. Everyone minding their own business did sometimes leave me feeling lonely in the beginning, but I quickly adapted and learnt to use it to my advantage. It is vital to realize that while such culture bears very self-sufficient and prosperous people, it is also one of the leading causes of escapism through drugs/alcohol, high divorce rates and a hook-up culture; so choose wisely.

 

  • Taking It Slow vs HustlingPhoto Feb 25.jpg

Imagine an endless cycle of Home Alone’s scene where the family rises late only to find themselves in a rush to catch their flight.

My first few months in the US, I had 10 pm food cravings, and while that might sound normal to the world, US considers 6-7 pm as dinner time and so I’d find no place in town except for IHOP restaurant(breakfast food) open. Besides, while I used to be able to eat for about an hour with my family back home, I could spend no more than half an hour at the dining nowadays.

Piled with work, everyone almost forgets how to breathe, and hustling becomes a lifestyle. While that is good in terms of time management and getting things done, for some, it leads to depleting meaningful conversations, unhealthy eating habits and increasing levels in Attention Deficiency Disorder. Leading a very busy life myself, I tend to stay mindful by meditating, maintaining a personal diary, dancing, painting and swimming once a while.

 

  • European English vs . American EnglishIMG_7542.JPG

Georgie Hanigan, February 2017

This is a big one; While I am a Journalism and Writing Major, and try my best to spell ‘traveler’ instead of ‘traveller’, but I still mess up sometimes. This goes not only for the European writing style, but also the pronunciations. For instance, I pronounce route as ‘root’, while here, it is pronounced as ‘ra-oot’ or schedule as ‘shed-ewl’ instead of the American ‘sced-dual’.

While I’ve come a long way trying to wrap my head around the measurement system here, I still function on a default of metric system, i.e. Kilograms instead of Pounds, degrees Celsius instead of degrees Fahrenheit, and kilometers instead of miles. Maybe one day I’ll have a better sense of these conversions.

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These are the struggles that I experienced in the US personally, that stood out the most. Few others were dealing with excess amount of paperwork, having to eat humungous food portions and dealing with time differences when it came to talking to my family or ex-boyfriend on the other side of the planet. I still struggle with being able to finish my food, but that isn’t an issue, because I am friends with few of the hungriest people alive!

Coming to the States was one of the best decisions I have ever made, as it taught me the value of self-acceptance and independence- two things I used to have a hard time wrestling with, earlier. Seeing such mere diversity in the part of Virginia where I am studying, I developed a zest in giving school tours and connecting with a diverse group of international students. It is a passion I hope to carry all through my life. I’m so grateful to this country for allowing me to be myself!

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*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The cameras I used to capture these pictures are Canon EOS 50D and my iPhone 7. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts! 🙂

Until tomorrow,

Arushi Sachan

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TRAVEL W/ ARUSHI: Feb 26-Mar 4🌏
•Sun, Feb 26th: Overview 📢
•Mon, Feb 27th: Being an International Student in the US🇺🇸
•Tues, Feb 28th: My 2017 Travel Bucket List 🗺
•Wed, March 1st: Tips to survive a long haul flight ✈️
•Thurs, March 2nd: Advantages of Traveling Solo 👩🏼‍🎤
•Fri, March 3rd: Budget Traveling Tips

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