The following is a blog piece from Afshana Hoque, an International Student Ambassador from India. Hoque is a graduate student majoring in communication. Feel free to contact Hoque or other International Student Ambassadors if you have questions about your time as an international student at Illinois State University.
I came to Illinois State University in January 2017. Back in India, I hardly travelled outside the Northeast region of the country (my home state is Assam), and this caused my parents to worry if I could adjust to a different culture. However, I have had a very good experience here. I would like to share a few things that helped me in my adaptation process. I must also mention that whatever thoughts I will share with you here are my personal beliefs and experiences; things may be different for each individual.
Adapting to the culture
Come with an open mind! By that, I mean to not have any preconceived notion about your new environment. Yes, it is a good thing to do a little homework, and look up things about the new country, and its culture; however, I recommend not believing everything you hear about the new environment. Often, our friends and those near us unintentionally give us a negative feeling about the new country and its culture. While they may be doing this completely out of love and care for us, such advice tends to pull us down and lower our positive energy. Illinois State has an extremely welcoming approach toward its international students.
Interact with diverse groups of people
While it is fine to connect with people from your home country, I would recommend interacting with the local students and students from other countries. Communication is the best way to break barriers, and also a great way to exchange views. By interacting with people from other cultures, one gets to learn so many interesting things about different cultures, foods, music, etc. Connecting with people from across the globe will build up the foundation for your future endeavors. Adapting to a new environment can be tough, but one way to ease the process is by understanding the other culture. Interacting with others not only builds friendship, it also helps us exchange insights about culture, and different thought processes.
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, build a network, develop leadership skills, and also boost your resume. Volunteering is a great way to legally gain experience while you are here as a student. There are several organizations and clubs on campus that provide volunteering opportunities. Volunteering gives you an opportunity to engage in activities and environments that can help you in your plans.
Use the various services on campus
For those of you who have never lived away from home, it can be difficult to fly to another country and live far from your family and friends. To help you cope with that, I suggest you utilize the various services the University has to offer. From a well-equipped recreational center, and a state-of-the-art library to student counseling services, the University has it all. The recreational center has various group classes as well, like Zumba, yoga, core training, etc. The best part is that they do not cost extra, as the services are included in your student fees.
Whenever in doubt, ask your advisor
In addition to the things above, if you have any other questions or you need assistance for anything, you can always contact International Student and Scholar Services.