Post by: Terefe Ejigu
An International student’s first-year thoughts: The college experience of an international student can be different from domestic students in many ways. Most international students begin at EMU with little practical knowledge of what life is like in an American university. Two years ago I was such a student. I stepped off my first flight in the U.S. with excitement and anticipation but without yet knowing a single person at my future college and home. I had never visited the U.S. before and had little real understanding of American culture or even what kind of food I would be eating at my new university. Everything was new to me as I walked around the EMU campus for the first time.
Making new friends is obviously very important for a new college student and you are not alone in this at EMU. EMU has students from more than 70 different countries and is one of the most diverse universities in Michigan. As an international student at EMU, I found my new environment very stimulating. As I became familiarized with my surroundings and my newly made friends, I started to feel at home. It is almost two years since I came to EMU and I feel that every day I’m more attached to this place. Feeling homesick is normal not only for international students who come from thousands of miles away, but even for domestic students whose parents live less than an hour drive from campus.
When I first arrived at EMU I was too busy enjoying my new school and getting to know my new friends to feel truly homesick. I got involved in the EMU Track and Field team and participated in student organization such as Model UN. As well as finding these extracurricular activities enjoyable, I also found that participating in the EMU community was a great way to make friends. Although Michigan is quite different to my home country (New Zealand), I quickly found home comforts such as a church very similar to my New Zealand community church, and great food both on and off campus. After a very stimulating and fast moving first few months, the Fall semester came to an end and I began to experience my first Michigan winter. I loved the first few weeks of snow, because as a kid I could only imagine what snow would feel like. As an athlete, I trained with my teams outside, and though the cold is tough, I enjoyed the warm feeling of being at Halle Library or the Student Center doing my homework. As a student your health comes first, hence it is very important to have all the proper clothes to keep you warm through the winter at EMU.
My advice would be to bring warm clothes before arriving or to buy from the many stores available around EMU ahead of time. As an international student, it is natural to feel homesick for a short period of time. However this is by far outweighed by the exciting new opportunities available to you at EMU. Once here at EMU, it is important to explore your new community as well as all the wonderful things EMU provides such as the student organization. It is important to be open and flexible to immerse yourself into the American culture. Getting involved with your new friends and your new community is a sure way to make the most of your time here at EMU.
EMU believes in “Education First” and you are guaranteed to have rewarding experience. I believe it is important to keep a balanced lifestyle. Partying and going to clubs is a very fun part of college life and is a great way to meet new friends. Knowing that you don’t have to drink or even drink to excess to impress others is important. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at EMU is to say “Yes”. Say yes when your new friends ask you to play soccer, to go for a run, to go to the movies and so on.