A Thousand Miles away for School

My name is Sarran Raaj Kunasekaran and I usually introduce myself as Raaj to avoid saying my long name. I was born on the 4th of December 1992 and I live in Port Dickson, Malaysia. I am a big fan of sports. Sports used to be a huge part of my life until injuries came around and forced me to slow down. My main sports were taekwondo, soccer and rugby. I am still in sports but just not as active. I am currently a junior majoring in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Tulsa. I am also currently under a scholarship by a company back home to finish my degree here in the United States of America.
I would like to share some information for those of you who are curious to find out more about the whereabouts of my country. Malaysia is a small country located in the south-east part of the Asian continent. Just as a scale of comparison, the whole peninsula Malaysia is smaller than Texas. However, population wise, the population of peninsula Malaysia is higher as the population is denser in Malaysia. The distance from Malaysia to Tulsa, Oklahoma is 9410 miles and the journey from Malaysia to Tulsa typically takes about 24-28 hours of pure flying time. This means that whenever I go home for summer holidays, I am in the air for at least 24 hours in order to reach home. Bear in mind, this is excluding the hours spent at airports going through security and waiting for the next flight out. This is a very likely situation for all international students here in the United States. However, being so far away from home, the long journey back home is the least of our worries. There are more issues which I believe every international student would agree with me.
Firstly, being so far away from home, the first thing which comes to mind is being away from our family. My family is the most valuable asset I possess. They have always been there for me whenever I needed them and also they play a very important role in guiding me towards the right path. They are the reason and my motivation to succeed both in school and in life. Being away from them just to go to the other end of the world all alone with no relatives in the closest vicinity is one of the hardest thing to do as a part of studying abroad. I believe this is the same for most international students too. Next, another issue which is very commonly faced by international students is culture shock. There are very few countries which share similar cultures as that of the United States. Therefore, it is pretty expected for the people from other countries to have different cultures in general. Culture shock, if not taken care right, could be very harmful towards the students’ stay here in the United States.
With all these being said, I would like to share some tips on how to deal with these worries. These could be useful to both current students and prospective students who are considering studying abroad. Firstly, being away from family is definitely no easy task. This is where it is your job to find good friends to keep around you. If you have good friends around you, you would feel emotionally more secure as you know you have at least someone you can rely on should you need someone around you for support. One good friend will do you more good than having hundreds of normal friends. So, find that one good friend and you should be fine. On the other hand, do not totally ignore your family’s existence. Call them every once in a while to keep in touch and update them on how you are doing. Bear in mind, your family misses you just as much as you miss them. As hard it is for you to leave home for school, it is also hard for them to see the son/daughter they raised to leave home. Keep in touch with your family. Call them regularly so that they do not feel like they lost their child.
Next, regarding the culture shock issue, I feel the one good way to get used to the culture here is to learn more about it even before coming to the United States. This will reduce the ‘shock’ for you. That is what I did before I got here and I can say I did not experience as much culture shock as some of my international friends did. Another useful way to avoid the culture shock is to come here with an open mind. Do not have the mentality that everything anyone else do which is contrary to your culture is wrong. Having an open mind will definitely be helpful especially here in the United States. Also, to further adapt to the lifestyle here, I would definitely recommend branching out and making new friends especially with the locals here. I have seen many international students come all the way here just to stick to friends from their home country. That is not something bad but while you are here, it would be better to make friends and mix around with the local students as they can further help you to adapt more to the American lifestyle.
In conclusion, I believe settling in to the life in United States is definitely a key factor in determining your success in school here. If a student is not settled in properly, they could be very emotionally disturbed and this may lead to many other problems such as homesickness or depression. That would further affect their academic performance and many other problems. Not settling in properly will definitely lead to many other problems and has a domino effect on everything else. Therefore, as an international student, my advice to all other international students are to settle in, adapt and develop a sense of belonging here at your university as this will be key to develop both academically and as a person in general.

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