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.