Tag Archives: international

Advice from an International Student to International Students

By Erik He

When I first arrived in America, I was hit with a tremendous wave of anxiety. It’s finally happening, I thought to myself, I’m finally here. I still remember waiting in line in LAX, making sure I had all the proper forms and visas. Will I make friends? What if I don’t fit in because I was a Spring Admit? What if the classes are extremely difficult? These thoughts swirled around my head. I was lucky to have my parents come with me, and the first thing we went to see was the university (fun fact: I’ve never even been in California before studying at USC). 

Now, in my senior year, whenever I meet another international student I know exactly how they feel. The uncertainty mixed with giddy excitement can be overwhelming, especially the first couple of months here. International students are placed in a sticky situation, because sometimes their accents or mannerisms may hinder their ability to make friends (I was in this situation, and I know how intimidating it can be to talk to an “American”). However, I realized that most of this was all in my head. My friends didn’t mind helping me with small grammar errors or teaching me the social norms here, and soon my fears dissipated. It’s easiest to find shelter in communities we are familiar with, but I’d like to encourage anyone in college to find people or activities that push them out of their comfort zone. 

Before coming here, I had the privilege of living in many different countries. From the United Arab Emirates to Sweden, home has become more of an abstract concept than a physical place. Initially, I hated the constant moving, and I never made close friends because we always moved after a couple years. But as I grew older I found solace in traveling, and in place of having close consistent friends were fresh new perspectives from different people. I constantly had my opinions and values challenged, and I loved every second of it. This helped me adjust to the way Los Angeles was, as to me it seemed like a battleground rife with clashing opinions, especially in today’s sociopolitical climate. But I believe that’s what college is for, for people to voluntarily confront ideas they aren’t necessarily comfortable with in order to see things from a different perspective. Whether you end up agreeing or not is irrelevant, but communicating, listening, and understanding helps one to grow as a person. As a filmmaker, I dig deep into my experiences to find ways to tell compelling stories, and the mantra I chose to embed in all my works is: “we are more similar than we are different”. This helped me stay civil and objective in my quest to learn, and from the ignorant to the wise, I find that any conversation can be fruitful if you go in it with the correct mindset. Good luck! As one international student to another, challenge yourself and grow!

Featured image from GotCredit.com

Erik is a senior studying film and television production. He grew up in various countries around the world, having lived in Beijing, Guangzhou, Montreal, Malmo, New Jersey, and Dubai. He spent most of his childhood in the United Arab Emirates, where he and many other expats studied in an IB high school. As Erik is also an international student, he knows how difficult it is to adapt to a new culture and language. Erik loves foreign movies, and directors such as Jia Zhangke, Wong Kar Wai, Asghar Farhadi, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Gaspar Noe are some of his favorites. In his spare time Erik likes to practice playing guitar, hanging out with friends or drawing. Erik can speak moderately fluent mandarin and a little bit of Arabic and Swedish. 

Understanding Diversity

By Tahrima Bhuiyan

I am the child of two Bangladeshi Americans. Every summer until I was ten years old, my family would visit our relatives back in Bangladesh– and then again, when I was fourteen, and then again this past summer, at eighteen.

I grew up travelling. I had visited a number of countries by the age of ten. To me, differences were normal– different colors, different cultures, different foods, different clothing, different religions. This was further reinforced by the fact that I was brought up in a very diverse community in Dallas, Texas.  

I have been raised amidst every possible race, culture, sexuality and religion. To the left of our home, there lived a Chinese family, to our right an African-American couple, and straight across, an old Colombian couple. In high school, my best friends represented every possible ethnicity. On Tuesday, my Vietnamese friends and I went to eat pho; on Friday, my African American friend’s mom gave me a dashiki, and on Saturday, I learned to do the salsa (even though I’m not good at it).

Diversity was a significant part of my experience; I was naive growing up, for I thought it was as normal to embrace differences for everyone else as it was for me. However, as incomprehensible as it was to me, discrimination soon became impossible to ignore. The older I got, the more I noticed misogyny, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance. It was sad to see my friends and peers experiencing hatred and prejudice due to their skin color. It was difficult to experience it myself. It was heartbreaking to interact with refugees from places such as Yemen, Syria and Myanmar and hear their stories of hardship and injustice and watch the world fail to care. I witnessed a lack of accessible healthcare, education and, many times, of basic human rights in developing nations abroad. These experiences led me to want work with NGOs; I have been working with UNICEF for three years and I hope to continue to work with  NGOs to address human rights violations.

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USC International Students: Double the Work, Double the Excellence

By Esther Cha

Even though I wasn’t born in the US, American culture and the English language came easily to me because I grew up here and went to school with other American students. The same was not true for my parents though; they really struggled trying to adjust to the foreign culture and learn the language.  I had to help them build the bridge between Korean and American culture but I did not realize until recently how big of a gift and asset this ability was. Being able to help others adjust to American culture through my position as an ALI One-on-One Conversation Partner has helped me appreciate my parents so much more and has built within me a renewed respect for international students.

Many look down upon students who come to America and struggle with English. In my opinion, their struggle is beautiful and admirable. They are struggling because, though they know another valuable language and culture, they chose to come here and learn something entirely new. Not only do they have to learn a new language, they have to learn their respective field studies in a different language. I am so honored to work with these diligent and curious students.

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