Whenever I tell people that I’m an international student, it’s always followed by an influx of questions! Where are you from? What’s it like being an international student? Do you like it here? Do you miss your family? Is it hard? Have you ever felt like an outsider?
I always take the questions in stride, because it is natural for people to be curious, and I honestly don’t mind sharing at all! So, I always reply with: I’m from New Delhi, India; being an international student is special and normal at the same time; I love it here, be it at the University of Rochester, or the USA; of course I miss my family (I don’t think anything will change that), and it’s hard when I can’t see them as frequently as I want; I’ve never really felt like an outsider here at the University of Rochester—quite the opposite, actually.
Being an international student at the University of Rochester is an awesome experience, not only because everyone here is so accepting of the fact that you’re not from the USA, but also because there are hundreds of other students in the same boat as you! Before coming to Rochester, I was a little scared of not fitting in because I was Indian and a complete stranger to American culture, but looking back now, I feel a little silly thinking that way. Because my being international doesn’t have much bearing on what my college experience is going to be like- I’m going to take the same courses, join the same clubs, have the same kinds of friends, and live in the same areas as other domestic students! Moreover, I’m an enthusiastic believer in the idea that your college experience is what you make of it, so you should make it really count!
Some of the things that helped me adjust better to being in a foreign environment were the resources available to students on campus, from specific offices and advisors to student-run organizations. Here are some of the most helpful things to keep in mind for international students at the U of R:
1. The ISO (International Services Office)
The ISO is the prime resource for all international students, and is located in 213 Morey Hall, on the tunnel level. If you have any questions about your visa requirements, working on campus and immigration documents, the ISO is where you would go! They have walk-in hours during the week, in case you want to meet with a advisor or just pop in for some information. All in all, ISO is a great and super helpful resource, the people are always cheery, and they can even help you file your taxes!
2. The forever increasing international population
The international student population at the University is one of my favorite parts about going here! I love meeting people from all over the world, and even more, getting to know about their life and culture outside of Rochester. As I’ve found in the past two years, the international community here is very strong and supportive, and continues to grow, from being 24% of the Class of 2020 to 32% of the Class of 2021. With people coming from over 135 countries, you can count on your Rochester experience being global, with a lot of your friends coming from foreign countries!
3. Cultural clubs and organizations
Everybody feels homesick at one point, and it’s even harder when your home is hundreds of miles away! So, Rochester has a solution to that, in the form of specific cultural clubs and organizations. We have around 26 such clubs on campus, ranging from the Pan African Students Association to the Chinese Students Association to the French Culture club! All these clubs have events every year or throughout the semester, where you can either hang out with people from your country, or come learn more about a new culture! My favorite is ADITI, a club that focuses on the Indian subcontinent, as it helps me connect with new people from India, and also stay in touch with my roots!
4. People here are friendly
Something that is amazing about Rochester is that people here are super friendly. For example, we love holding doors open for each other, smiling at people walking by, or offering to help whenever necessary. This was completely new for me, coming from New Delhi, where the huge population makes it hard to connect at a personal level with passersby. But to be honest, the fact that I’ll always have a super supportive friend group keeps me going, whenever I miss my parents or feel like going home and can’t.
Further, your resident advisors, professors, mentors and supervisors also genuinely care about you as a person. To them, you’re not just a face in the crowd, but an individual person that is unique in their feelings and thoughts. So, they will try their hardest to make sure that your transition to college life is as smooth as possible.
In the end, people you surround yourself with can have a huge impact on your college experience, so you are basically guaranteed an amazing four years here at Rochester!
5. Stepping out of your comfort zone pays off
Not everyone finds it easy to just connect with people from the very start, and the truth is, it might take time for you to find your college “squad” of people. What helped me expedite the process was stepping out of my comfort zone, especially during Orientation. Something that most people not know about me was that I used to be a huge introvert in high school, and up until I met my roommate Liz during Orientation. Upon meeting her, I got a little more confident in my “people” abilities, and went out of my way to make more friends! No matter how much it freaked me out, I wanted to try something new by being outgoing, and making the most of my time here!
It is completely natural to be worried about starting college, especially as an international student. You’re leaving your home for a long period of time, knowing that you might not see your family as frequently as you want. You will most definitely face culture shock at one point, too! But the thing you should remember is that UR not alone! There will always be a huge community here at the University to support you, and make sure you love your new home away from home.