International Students Home away from Home

Hi everyone! My name is Yimi Omofuma. I am currently a doctoral candidate at Palo Alto University, California, studying Clinical Psychology. I am Nigerian, and have lived in a number of states (in America) and countries thus far. Being an international student, it can be a bit daunting trying to settle in and find your place. After 8 years of being international, here are a few things I’ve done thus far that have made my stay more pleasant.

Number 1: Immerse yourself.
Moving to a new place is scary, and the easiest thing you can do is find others from your country of origin and stick to them. This is not all together bad. But it takes away from your experience in my opinion. You should try to make friends with locals in the area, and learn as much about the new culture as you can. Language and culture can be very fascinating aspects of life when you open yourself up to them. It can also help take away the sting and fear associated with being in a new place, not knowing anyone or anywhere.

Number 2: Create your home
It can get lonely seeing things you are unfamiliar with everyday, and people you are not used to. One way I handled this was to create my own home in my room, house or apartment. You can have decorations from your country, pictures of places, family and friends. Creating a home that gives the impression of you taking a journey everyday can help reduce the feelings of homesickness.

Number 3: Join a Group.
On-campus clubs are an excellent way to meet new people and make friends. Ranging from sport clubs to social clubs, colleges have a variety of group you can become a part of. Many of these clubs have events and outings that can give you an opportunity to explore the city (sometimes country) you are in with friends. For those who are studying in a country where the spoken language is different from their native language, joining a club is good way to develop your language skill.

Number 4: Find other Internationals.
I know this sounds like it negates number 1, but it doesn’t. As an international student, it is important to have friends either from your home country or who are international students like yourself. Culture shock is something a lot of people face, and sometimes, just seeing someone with the same cultural background as yourself or having someone to talk to, who can relate, about your experiences can help relieve the stress. Also, international students can help answer important questions some domestic students may not be able to – for instance, telling you where the best restaurant serving your native dish is located.

Number 5: Don’t be a Loner
This can be a summary of 1 through 4. Being in a new place, it can be tempting to stay on your own (especially if you are an introvert like me ><). But I learned – the hard way – that you have to force yourself to go out and get to meet people. College provides great opportunities for friendships – classmates, dorm-mates, study buddies, clubs… you just have to take advantage of them all! Don’t make ‘class-home-class’ your daily routine. Try to have some variance. Focus on your coursework, but make sure to have a non-academic activity planned for at least once a week. Studying in a different country makes you more open-minded and broadens every aspect of your world. College is a bundle of experiences, which can all be memorable if you let them. Coming to a new place is scary, but to get the best out of it, you should try to relax. Don’t just pass through college, but allow the college to pass through you!!

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