College From an International Perspective
A year ago, I was a typical college student in Italy looking for a life-changing experience.
Coming to Angelo State University as an international student has allowed me to fulfill that desire, but my journey across the Atlantic wasn’t quite as easy as it may seem.
I’ve learned that everybody gets intimidated when they have to face new things, whether that be starting college for the first time or studying abroad. Being scared is part of human nature and there is nothing bad about it. What is important is overcoming the fear of new experiences and not letting it stop you.
Here’s a personal account of some of my experiences as an international student. You’ll see that some are processes that all international students experience, but others are unique to ASU.
Approval to Study Abroad
My series of challenges started one stormy day in January, when I had to take a very hard test of proficiency in English to demonstrate that I knew the language enough to be able survive college life in the U.S.
At that time I didn’t know that sometimes knowing English is not enough to understand proud rural Texans.
Later in May, I also had to reassure the U.S. embassy that I had never been convicted of a crime, had never been in prison and had never done all those nasty things I only ever saw on “Breaking Bad.” They believed I was innocent and I was relieved when I finally got my visa.
Prepping For My Arrival
I won’t lie: Before arriving here I was very scared. I wanted to live an adventure but when it was almost time to actually travel across the ocean this adventure seemed too big for me. I kept trying to find as much information as possible online so that I would be less frightened of what was ahead of me.
I remember I used Google Street View many times to see what the campus actually looked like. To my disappointment the tiny car that takes the photos of the streets didn’t actually go through the campus so, unfortunately, no pictures for me. This was not very reassuring.
My First Experiences on Campus
When I finally got here I found that I had nothing to be afraid of. ASU is definitely an international student-friendly environment. People are very welcoming and ready to help you in even the most basic things.
For example, the first morning I was here, my friend and I were starving and needed to have breakfast. We didn’t even know where the cafeteria was and, after wandering around campus for a while, we decided to stop by the Center for International Studies and ask for help. We felt almost embarrassed because asking “Do you know where we can have breakfast?” can sound kind of silly. On the contrary, they were happy to help us. They gave us a map, circled all the places within walking distance, and they almost walked with us to the doughnut place around the corner.
Our breakfast hunt followed my first night in my dorm room. I had forgotten to bring bed sheets, which was a huge oversight. Who knows how many people have slept on those mattresses previously? I didn’t even have a blanket or a pillow, but no way I was going to sleep on the floor after a 30-hour journey. So I just laid a big scarf on the mattress and used my bathrobe as a pillow. I can say for sure that was not the best night’s sleep of my life.
The first day of classes I got lost in the Porter Henderson Library trying to find the third floor. I was wandering inside the building, desperately looking for the stairs or the elevator. Even a ladder would have been fine. I absolutely didn’t want to be late for my first class. An angel in the form of a student descended from heaven and, seeing the look on my face, kindly explained to me that, strangely enough, you cannot access the third floor from inside the building. You have to go in from a separate stairwell or use the outside elevator.
In the end, everything worked out really well for me, and the adventure I wanted to live so badly turned out to be everything I wanted it to be. I’ve met a lot of friends from all over the world and I’ve had a lot of new experiences. A year ago I would have never thought that I would have tried rock climbing and kayaking, learned a little bit of Korean and built a whole website on my own.
And I still have a whole semester ahead of me so who knows what other opportunities will present themselves?