International students on what they wish they knew before coming to UI


Photo courtesy of Siti Fathimah

Siti Fathimah, a graduate student studying economics, shares what she wish she knew prior to arriving to the University such as the importance of independency and lack of interaction between students.

By Ashleigh Kendrick and Aidan Finn

Moving away from home and into college is a large milestone in many students’ lives. They’re moving away from friends, family and the familiarity of the surroundings they have known their entire lives and jumping head first into an unfamiliar environment, and they’re doing it all by themselves. This especially rings true for international students, as they leave their home country to not only experience a new environment, but a new culture as well.

Several international students expressed what they wish they knew before moving to America and living at the University.

Atharv Gudi, freshman in Engineering

“I wish I knew a little more about American culture before coming. I’m glad to have met friends who have lived their entire lives in America and helped me ease into the surroundings. I had no idea that the campus would be so diverse, and I wish I knew a little more about that before coming.”

Morgan Clark, senior in LAS

“One thing I wish I knew before coming here was how much more I had to step outside of my comfort zone than I thought I would have to. I was already stepping outside my comfort zone by coming to a different country and made the effort to attend several events to meet new people, but I still really struggled to initiate conversation.”

Joseph Abi-Karam, freshman in Engineering

“Before moving to college, I wish I knew how hard it would be to be away from home, especially when it is enduring its worst economic crisis since the mid-19th century.

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“This doesn’t make me regret my decision to come here, quite the contrary: I’m really grateful to have this opportunity of studying in such a prestigious institution that will give me the best background to help my home country in the future.”

Siti Fathimah, graduate student studying economics

“I wish I knew in the University area there is still hate about others’ faith, beliefs and religion. People are also too busy studying and working and forget about how to interact with other people and their mental health. I wish I knew doing everything by yourself is big because people here are so individual and ‘time is money’ is really applicable. I wish I knew Eid is not a national holiday.

“I wish I knew that making real friends here is a bit difficult because of the individual soul. But I won’t judge — every country has its own uniqueness. I also wish I knew the four seasons are really quick to change.”

Matteo Stefanini, senior in Engineering

“I wish I would have known that the University Housing dorms are not a nice place to live.

“When I had to choose where to live during my exchange, I thought dorms were part of the American college experience. I lived in Bousfield, an upperclassmen dorm, which is therefore very quiet and boring. To add more to the mix, the dorms are really expensive and force you to buy the pretty decent but expensive meal plan.”

Kingston Tai, sophomore in Engineering

“I wish I knew how hard the courses would get in the second year when I chose my major.

“There is a drastic difference between the level of difficulty of courses between the first and second year. If I had known that, I could have chosen more courses the first year so I wouldn’t be behind.”

Aaron Mukhopadhyay, freshman in LAS

“The food kind of gets horrible sometimes and public transportation is the most confusing part of America for me. The fact that the University offers counseling and mental health, I feel like that is a very important part of University we should speak about more.”


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