As one reflects on the comforts of home, buzzwords such as the St. Louis Arch, toasted ravioli and Imo’s Pizza strike a reassuring chord in the hearts of St. Louisans. While some Webster students depart Webster Groves to embark on their journey abroad, others begin their adventure here: in the heart of the Midwest.
by Laura Reid
With the familiar behind them, international students begin to experience the vast cultural mosaic that is America. Initially, this experience can be enthralling, but the novelty eventually wears off. Many international students experience loneliness, homesickness and conflicting cultural norms.
Once the enchantment of the new environment fades, the intense desire to return home sets in. They start missing their country’s food, clothing and traditions. Most of all, they yearn for the loved ones they left behind. Often the brisk and impersonal pace of American culture requires some adjustment.
With the utilization of Webster’s resources, the transition into American culture can become less burdensome. The most useful resources available to international students include the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) and Webster University Counseling and Life Development.
MCISA provides its students with events, seminars, grocery runs and airport runs. It also directs their students to the right resources to resolve their issues. Counseling and Life Development has counselors trained to assist students with their emotional and mental needs.
After finding ways to cope with the anxieties of a new culture, many international students begin to appreciate their environment. Studying abroad represents the opportunity for growth and new insights. Utilizing resources and branching out socially enables a healthy balance: the equilibrium of accepting a new culture while holding home close to heart.
Juan Salas was delighted by the idea of coming to the U.S. But when he arrived from Colombia, the emotional high of the new environment wore off quickly.
“The way people relate to each other, how they make and maintain friendships is probably the thing I struggled with the most, because it is extremely different. Colombians are very sensual people,” Salas said. “Our relationships mature quickly and easily.”
MCISA remained a constant source of support through Salas’ struggles. They helped him with everything from grocery shopping to acquiring a social security number. Salas feels that international students could grow by accepting their environment and utilizing the resources available at Webster.
“The worst thing you can do is keep cursing to the wind in your own language,” Salas said. “Talk to your friends, teachers, co-workers, advisors and counselors. Find an outlet.”
Cindy Quan had a clear image of the United States before studying abroad.
“When I came to St. Louis, it was the first time I saw so many cultures,” Quan said.
A senior international relations major, Quan had strong family support through her through her college experience. As a resident assistant (RA), Quan helped international students handle similar experiences that she overcame.
“College isn’t only about studying, it’s about learning who you are and growing,” Quan said. “Being an RA helped me grow as a student leader and role model.”
Media communications and marketing major Anmol Rajbhandari experienced an easier transition into the Webster culture. Rajbhandari traveled for much of his life, and spent 12 years in boarding schools in India and Nepal. He feels that his experiences shaped him into an independent individual.
“Having been here only for a semester I’m still learning something new about the American culture on a regular basis. The environment that is embedded with the university and the students that study at the university, made it quite easy for me to easily fit right into the American culture,” Rajbhandari said.