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The Long Journey – Advice from one international student to another

October 18, 2019

I woke up at 6 a.m. to travel to the airport to take what I knew would be the most important but also the hardest journey of my life. Standing in the departure area, hugging my parents goodbye, was emotional and difficult, but once I was through border security and waiting for my flight, I became excited about what was to come.

Being an international student is HARD. Applying to schools across the globe who, firstly, are in a different time zone to you and, secondly, have a completely different high school system to you, makes things a little difficult. Now, if you’re a potential international student reading this as you try to work out the various things about U.S. college life as I once did, and now you’re thinking, ‘oh crap what have I gotten myself into, why did I think I could handle this?' Stop, breathe, and realise that if I managed to do it, you’ll be fine. Those same thoughts arrived in my head when I touched down in Cleveland and many times before I left, so I promise: You CAN do it.

I started my journey to Oberlin in April 2018, when I attended a careers expo in Melbourne and saw a little stand for a sports USA company that helps student-athletes make it to the United States. They helped me recruit with schools, and, after chatting to a bunch of different colleges, sitting the SAT multiple times, and sending hundreds of emails, I eventually was accepted into Oberlin. I spent months getting more and more excited about my flight until it finally arrived. On the 18th of August, I hugged my parents goodbye and got on a Qantas flight to go and follow my dream.

I will admit I felt very nauseous as the plane took off, but I soon distracted myself with the inflight entertainment. Once I landed in LA, I went through customs, which was a lot of standing in lines, eventually making it into the country. I spent a few days in LA with my uncle, who showed me the sights, before leaving on the 22nd to make my journey to Oberlin College.

My flight from LA to Cleveland was a bumpy red-eye, which meant I arrived at 6 a.m. with no sleep and had to navigate a foreign airport alone, which was terrifying for an 18-year-old who had never travelled without her parents before.

This is the exact moment where those aforementioned panicked thoughts popped into my head. I eventually found the international student shuttle and made it onto campus, calming me down tremendously.

Once I got into my dorm, though, the panic set in: I was far from home, in a different time zone, and all I wanted was a hug from my mum and dad.

Moving in was HARD. I spent the first hour of my moving in crying on the floor of my dorm room, during which I called my mum and cried to her, and she eventually managed to get me to calm down enough to start unpacking the 14 boxes I ordered from Amazon. I finished unpacking all of my things and then decided that the lack of sleep was probably not helping my homesickness, so I took a long nap. Those hours during the day where my family was asleep were the hardest of my life, but it was great to talk to my mum when she was awake, and I phoned other family around the world during the day to distract myself.

Now, if you’re thinking ‘wow this is depressing, I don’t want to do this’, please stick with me. Move-in was DIFFICULT, I am not going to sugar coat it. It really sucked, but it was also the best experience of my life.

The most important thing I learnt from that whole experience is phoning my parents and making friends during orientation is what saved me. Having the swim team arrive once the upperclassmen moved in made life easier. I am so glad that I decided to become an Obie. I still miss my family at home, and nothing is going to change that, but the homesickness gets better each day, and the community here at Oberlin has welcomed me with open arms.

There are many people who can’t remember my name here but still make an effort to say, ‘hey Australia, come sit with us’. The people here also seem to love my accent (I have been recorded saying random things on multiple occasions), which is entertaining for me, and I love getting to meet new people and expand my horizons.

So, don’t worry about what you’ve gotten yourself into exploring college on the other side of the globe, because I’ve only been here a month or so, and I already know it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

And, for those of you on campus already, if you see me around, please make sure you come and say g’day, and I’ll be sure to give you a hug and tell you everything will be ok.

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