Lawrence Ssebaggala

Lawrence Ssebaggala

The following is a blog piece from Lawrence Ssebaggala, an International Student Ambassador from Uganda. Ssebaggala is a graduate student majoring in mathematics education. Feel free to contact Ssebaggala or other International Student Ambassadors if you have questions about your time as an international student at Illinois State University.

Traveling to the U.S.

I traveled to the U.S. almost six years ago, when we still had British Airways (BA) flying our route. Things have since changed. One thing I did not anticipate is how cold it would be in Europe during February. My deplaning at Heathrow in London was not a nice experience due to the extreme cold. However, if you are coming through Doha or Dubai, you should be fine.

Shopping for airplane tickets in advance can also help reduce the cost. I went to different airline offices and compared prices, keeping in mind the itinerary (in terms of flight time and connection flights). It also helps to contact a friend, colleague, or a student already in the U.S. to check online for prices. This helped me make informed decisions.

When I got to the airport, I used a payphone to call the people waiting for me and let them know I was here. Technology has now evolved. Carrying a cellphone (Wi-Fi ready) can be helpful when you get to the port of entry in the U.S. to communicate with someone waiting for you.

Spring/Fall break experiences

Being a graduate student with a family, I have spent most of my semester breaks in town, catching up on writing papers that are due, and watching my kids. Occasionally, I visited a few places, like taking a train from Uptown Station down south to see old friends.

Things to do in Bloomington-Normal

Great parks. I have visited McGraw on the east side of town, and it is awesome. If you are into taking long walks or riding a bike, you will love the trails in Bloomington-Normal.

Milner Library

Every time I have gone to the library to borrow a book, they’ve had it in stock. Before I walk from my office to Milner, I visit and ask some questions through their online chat. That helps me save time when I need to look for a certain book or resource.

Communication challenges

It was hard to deal with homesickness initially when there was not much technology. However, I now easily make video calls to catch up with folks back home. If I miss a particular domestic TV program, I just go to YouTube and watch it.