Dear future study abroad participants at SDSU,
As an international student from Indonesia, studying abroad in the United States was the most fantastic — yet scary — decision of my life. I had to adapt to a new environment and adjust myself to the weather, language, people and food. I thought I was a global citizen already, yet I experienced an extraordinary culture shock. I was not as open to new cultures as I thought.
Yet I believe that studying abroad is really a worthwhile adventure because we are out of the comfort zone. Studying in America and exploring the country for almost four years has changed my perspective about cultures, people, politics and the world.
“In order to become successful international students in the future, we should appreciate global students within our community.”
The humidity in Indonesia prevented me from exploring outdoors activities back home. I tended to stay at home or go to the book store. However living in California has let me experience hiking and surfing. Cooking is also another thing I have gotten to explore as an international student. At home my mother cooked for the family, yet living out of the country far from family forced me to explore foreign ingredients such as basil, cayenne pepper and parsley.
I also learned about diversity in California and around the world by meeting new people with different nationalities and backgrounds. I would say that I am majoring in international studies and finding new hobbies because I study in America.
I believe some of you want to study abroad either because of the major requirement or for the sake of the experience. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), in SDSU ranks fifth in the U.S. for number of students who study abroad. However, before saying yes to the amazing experience in front of you, you should ask yourself some questions.
- Do I have a global mindset?
- Am I open to new changes?
- What if I fail to meet my expectations?
- How can I be a great international student?
- Am I a global citizen?
Here are a few suggestions on how you can answer these questions:
Be international now
To get ready for the challenge of studying abroad, you should equip yourself for global citizenship at home and in your community. We know that San Diego is one of the most diverse cities in America. And at SDSU, international students make up about 8 percent of the student body as recently as 2016.
Therefore, to succeed as an international student abroad in the future, change your behaviors before you go.
When I was in high school back in Indonesia, two exchange students from France came to stay at my friend’s house. I remember we took them to experience the national ceremony at our school and we introduced them to friends and teachers. Therefore, I started gathering some idea of what it meant to be a global citizen — I didn’t wait until I traveled abroad.
Join a cultural club on campus
To become a global citizen, you can start by attending a cultural club meeting or cultural events to gain new global skills and practice a foreign language. One of the options is to join some specific international clubs such as the French Club, Russian Club or even a broader organization like the International Student Association at SDSU.
Another alternative is to go to an International Coffee Hour hosted by the International Student Center, where exchange students present about their home country’s cultures every week. By joining a cultural club or association, you’ll get a chance to know more about another country and gain insight into its culture.
Acknowledge the International Students
In order to become successful international students in the future, we should appreciate global students within our community. SDSU has about 3,000 international students from around the world. This presents a great opportunity for us to find some international students in our classes and community and give them some recognition — either just a tiny smile or small conversation.
Going to international student events (such as International Coffee Hour and international clubs) is the best way to reach out to international students. Also, thanking them for choosing to study in the U.S. or asking them questions about what they have learned or liked about America are other ways to acknowledge them.
Share our cultures.
Here’s what Brandie Yale, director of graduate admissions at the University of Houston, says on the subject:
“International students who have greater social interaction with natives of the host culture will have the greatest levels of adjustment to the new culture. They will learn the social rules and expectations quickly and develop a supportive relationship that allows them to experience less culture shock.”
To grow into excellent global residents, we should also share insight into our cultures with international students. Sharing the value of our experiences to exchange students will benefit us to appreciate our own cultures.
The Global Citizen Formula.
Learning to be global citizens within our society will allow us to discover ourselves. We will be equipped to accept new perspectives and ready to be adventurous when we study overseas.
But even if you decide not to study overseas, you can still be a global citizen in our community. The formula of becoming global citizens is to open your eyes and think beyond your comfort zone. Keep learning about other cultures, respecting international students and sharing your background in society.
Monica Kading is a comparative international studies junior. She is an international student from Indonesia.
Great perspective! I very much agree!
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