The Life of an International Student

Insight into Experiencing American Culture

NDSU has a vast amount of international students coming here to pursue their higher studies and fulfill their American dream. With international students comes their history, culture, and very own personality and attitude. International students land at Hector International Airport, carrying not only their luggage but the baggage of their past. For some, it isn’t that hard to adapt to a new situation. What about those who are emotional, introverted, and ambitious at the same time? I know the answer. They suffer immensely but silently. 

With the presumption that international students speak in a different language and from a different culture, let’s explore the reality of life for international students in the United States. Being from Bangladesh, I speak in Bangla, dress, and even think  like a typical Bangladeshi. Though I am not the representative of every international student, we share similarities in terms of feelings, which is basically the same in every continent. We also share almost similar experiences. No matter which country you are from, you have to go to the International Students Office of NDSU. See! We are the same! Just kidding! We are more than that.

The dilemma that every student has to go through right after coming here is housing. Is on-campus or off-campus a better option? But soon after stepping our foot on the ground of the United States, we understand that with money comes the better options. After sorting that out, comes the struggle of getting along with roommates. Dealing with difficult roommates can be challenging, especially when they are loud or intrusive. Once we manage that, the battle is half-won. You managed to sort out your living arrangements, feel more in control of your life at NDSU. Now, the saga of food.

It is challenging to accommodate the diverse dietary needs of all students, especially with the large number of international students at NDSU. Human beings have limitations, and NDSU is a human run institution. We are fully aware of that. But it hurts when you have dietary restrictions and they are not accommodated. As a Muslim, I can not eat everything I have in front of me. If I go to any dining center, I have to ask about the ingredients to the people working there.

I cannot eat any meat unless it is halal. To buy halal things, I have to rely on halal markets, which are pretty expensive compared to Walmart and Aldi, making my life harder as I do not earn enough to afford those prices. Wondering why? Because an international student is not allowed to work over 20 hours a week, contributing to making survival pretty difficult. I even have to depend on the clothes that I had brought with me and online shopping, where you see something and end up getting something else. See the struggle!

Let’s shift our attention towards our mental condition. Having a family back home, I feel homesick every now and then. The moment I see my mother and brother’s faces flashing across the Whatsapp screen, I feel elated, energetic, and empowered. I also know that some have lost one parent, like me, or both parents to death, losing the chance to talk to them at times of dire emotional need. Do you know how we keep ourselves going? By crying, that exhausts us to the extent where we fall asleep, and reminding ourselves that we have people back at home who are waiting for our success.

When I am in the class, I look different from my classmates, who are mostly white Americans. We share cultural differences that make both parties alert and careful not to hurt others by any gesture or word. As English is an international language, we use English in our country as our second language. With that practice, we have come up with our very own Asian accent, diction, and usage of English. There were times when I said something but it meant totally opposite of my intended meaning, getting weird looks from people around me. 

Some of us also struggle in managing academic expectations too. From Blackboard to the accents of our professors, everything is new to us. Coming from different countries, adapting to a new education system can be a battle for some, especially since each country has its own unique approach to education.

After going to class in Fall 21, I even had hard times understanding the accents of my two amazing professors, Dr. Goldwyn and Dr. Hassel, from the English department. If you do not understand what your teacher is telling you or asking you to do, you are in limbo. Though I overcame that with their support and kind attitude towards me, I assume that every international student does not get that support from their professors. In this case, I was lucky.

In fact, I feel fortunate to attend an institution where my teachers offer support, my classmates are amiable, and as a Muslim, I experience a sense of safety. I believe students from other countries may have had a similar experience and recommended NDSU to their peers, which explains the large number of international students here. However, I do wish that NDSU could provide more food options for Muslim students given their significant presence on campus. Additionally, during our Eid celebrations, it would be wonderful to have a day off to enjoy the occasion. While I realize that NDSU may not be able to offer this to students of all religions, it would be greatly appreciated by Muslim students.

So, next time you meet an international student, please, think about our emotional and survival struggles that are happening on a constant basis in our life. I am not asking you to walk a thousand miles in our shoes or treat us like we are from a different planet. All I want to tell you is that we melt like ice cream in sunshine once someone treats us nicely. Just imagine! We crave attention, support and love. Trust me, that’s all we want and need. Lend your loving, and caring hands to us.

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