In an interview last year I was asked the question, “what’s the thing that you are the most proud of?” To me, the answer was obvious. It wasn’t one of those typical interview answers like getting into my dream school, achieving a personal or academic goal, or meeting some kind of milestone. To me, the answer to that question was simply moving to the US.
There are a lot of reasons why I think that moving here is the thing that I’m the most proud of. Overcoming homesickness and learning more about myself and really developing as a person is a big part of that reason. However, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently is how moving abroad (especially as my first ever move away from home) forced me to become a responsible adult right away.
When you move away from home for the first time it’s already this big shift into being in control of your life, which is great, but there are also all the logistical things that aren’t that fun to think about. Especially when your first move away from home is across the world, that adjustment just gets elevated to a completely new level. As an international student, I felt like before I even got to the US I was thrown into learning about all these different systems and norms. For example, I remember spending many frustrated days working out my international visa situation which was especially complicated during the pandemic. And once I got over here to the US that got to a whole new level; I felt like I was doing all these adult things that most people have a long time to adjust into right away and without a support system who I could ask for help from.
For example, things that aren’t that glamorous but are essential to living out here. Like learning how to sign a lease, opening a bank account, filling out insurance, scheduling doctors appointments and working out the whole healthcare system out here, paying taxes, dealing with visa situations! I think for domestic students there’s more of a transition period or a few years before they no longer file as a dependent on their parents taxes or switch to their own health insurance plan. But international students get thrown right into it – if we want to live here these are the systems we’re expected to know right away.
Oftentimes there isn’t really much support available for these things. In a situation involving these adult-logistical-style things the first people I would think of to ask for help are my parents, but a lot of the time these are American systems that they’re not familiar with. The next people I would think to ask are my American friends but a lot of the time they don’t have experience with the nitty gritty questions like which forms to fill out that are on my mind. There’s limited support for international students from our universities, and a lot of the time that support is very basic and not really created by someone who has ever put themselves in the shoes of an international student trying to figure everything out for the first time.
I mean, one of the reasons I created this blog was because I felt like there weren’t adequate spaces for people with the same experiences as myself to go to where they could find the advice and support from someone who has been in their position. So far, that’s taken the form of me just writing blog posts and my expat advice column in the hope that others can find a shared aspect in that. But I think that the lack of an “international student crash course” or education that is very comprehensive and made from the perspective of someone who has no experience in the US or a support system here is lacking. Just something that’s been on my mind lately and that I’ve been thinking about; this blog definitely won’t become a place where I dish out that kind of advice because I don’t even know it all myself yet! But maybe future plans? I would love to see some kind of comprehensive support and mentorship for international students in the future!
When I think back to the reasoning why moving to the US is the thing that I am the most proud of, I would say not only because it forced me to become an adult so quickly but because it taught me how to learn these new systems, where to go for help, and how to problem solve in a tough and frustrating situation. I can’t even count the number of times where I’ve been brought to tears of frustration by trying to work out all these adult things on my own and am annoyed because it takes time away from the thing that I’m meant to be here for – studying! But it has only made me a stronger person. I feel as though going through this experience, that some people never even have to go through, at such a young age has only helped me become stronger. It’s also given me a sense of self confidence and legitimacy that I think can only help me as I move on with life.
Let me know what you think in the comments – did moving away from home to a new country force you to grow up quickly!
See you next week,