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Inside Beat

Letter to international students: Despite challenges, you aren't alone

For international students, opportunities to study abroad can also come with intimidating challenges. – Photo by Victoria Heath / Unsplash

Growing up, I used to love watching movies where the protagonist would move to a big city after they graduated high school and have these great adventures in an unfamiliar place.

Little did I know, things don't always play out like that in real life. When I moved to the U.S. as an international student, I felt like I was standing on shaky ground, thousands of miles away from what I knew and who I knew.

Rutgers has a large population of international students, so to a certain degree, life isn’t too isolating or lonely. But figuring out how to basically build a new life from scratch can be quite the process.

Living alone always looks much more exciting in movies. There's always a catchy playlist in the background and the main character's closet of clothes seems endless.

I was raised to be fairly independent, so there wasn’t a lot of fear about how I would handle the responsibilities of living by myself. But all the excitement of being an adult and making this move got mixed with the nostalgia for the home I left behind just one day in.

As someone who has always been close to their family but also has been interested in following her dreams in this country, I sometimes feel conflicted about how I should feel. Am I allowed to be sad and homesick, or should I be grateful for this opportunity?

Sure, technology has made it easier to call your folks back home any second you want, but it isn’t the same as feeling their presence. Being an international student, you have to balance feeling grateful for the chance to study abroad and waiting for a break to fly home to see your family at the same time.

Studying at Rutgers and living alone has brought more than just homesickness. Studying abroad was like dipping your toes in freezing water — the first moment is shocking. It’s new, uncomfortable and you want to take your feet out instantly. But once you give it a little time, it starts to feel normal, good even.

Settling in takes time, but once you do, you open your eyes to the freedom that lies ahead of you — the chance to make new friends, have new experiences and explore new possibilities.

When you've lived in one place for a long time, you subconsciously create this bubble that contains familiar faces and boundaries. It's safe but constricting at the same time. Coming to a new country bursts that bubble and lets you take in everything the world has to offer.

The move I made makes me miss the familiarity I grew up with but allows me the ability to be whoever I want to be.

The grass will always seem greener on the other side, but your perspective will make the difference between a good and bad experience. There's nothing wrong with feeling lonely from time to time and wanting to be with your loved ones instead of miles away.

But I'm here, and the ability to mold my future is beautifully refreshing. If you're an international student, I more than understand that path can seem daunting, but it's completely worth the challenges. At a school as big as Rutgers, you're not alone, so don't be afraid to reach out and remember that your time here is whatever you make it.

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