What is life on another continent really like?
by Nitya Chagti ’19
As exciting as the prospect of being an international student happens to be, it is also quite scary! It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the first question on an international student’s mind will always be: what is it actually like there? In the short time that I’ve worked as an International Student Ambassador, it’s the most frequent question I have answered. Quite rightly so, I believe – after all, it was the most pressing question I could think of when I was making my decision. It’s natural to want to know the exact details of what your life will be like when you are thousands of miles away from home.
I was extremely lucky to have had the fantastic experience that I did in my freshman year. From the first moment I stepped into Huntingdon, I knew that I’d have a great time. This is because Juniata utilized a lot of ways to incorporate international students into its environment. Through international students’ orientation, Inbound, and socials, Juniata made sure that incoming students had a chance to meet a large part of the student body. By the end of the first month, it was very easy to know half the people on campus by name – without even realizing it! The familiarity of Juniata College added to my experience of its support system.
My freshman year progressed with unimaginable ease because the professors were really great about international students – they knew that our learning system may differ and they were very open to us asking questions. I was able to converse frequently and freely with my professors, and learn extensively through the process. I highly admire how Juniata continuously helps build an academic base – apart from how the professors do their best to make sure the students comprehend everything, Juniata offers free tutoring services in case someone is struggling in any class, and there’s a Writing Center equipped with specially-trained students that help students with their papers. As a humanities student, I’ve attended lectures on Spanish pirates, watched Russian movies, and read Irish books for extra credit in my classes. The classes are a thorough examination of the subject in its entirety, and highly interesting.
Here’s the truth – being an international student is tough, no matter which country you are from. It doesn’t matter if your first language is English, or if you know what Chicken Jook is (thanks, globalization), or if you have watched every movie ever produced about what it is like to attend college in the United States. At the end of the day, the culture shock and the homesickness is going to be your reality. But, once you realize that, you can start working through it. Most importantly, you can start recognizing the support structures around you.
Yes, I agree that to be an international student is to be scared, and to be quite alone in a foreign country. But, with the help of the people around you, to be an international student is also to be an adventurer and a thrill-seeker. Above all, to be an international student is to be a global citizen, a part of the worldwide cultural exchange, and to truly be free.
Read more about Nitya’s adventures as an international Scrabble player: