I won’t lie to you. Being in University is one of the best experiences of my life. It’s like being on a roller coaster for the first time. At first you don’t believe you’ll survive it, then at some point in the middle you want to jump ship, but at the end of the ride you’ll want to do it all over again (even though you’re nauseous and lightheaded). Although University is amazing for some, the reality of being an international student puts you at a disadvantage. I have always felt confident in who I am: a black woman in a world where being black and being a woman are disadvantageous. I stand tall knowing that no matter what, I am an equal to everyone around me. My mother told me that regardless of my disadvantages, “I should walk tall, even when I feel small.” But back to the difficulties of being an international student.
I recall my first day at Acadia University. It was January 3rd. The bus had just arrived at the meal hall parking lot. As I stepped out of the bus, I could feel a sharp cold breeze from the ocean and all I could think was, “Holy shit, it’s cold.” I can distinctly remember that there was no one around to welcome me to campus. There was no welcome team or frosh week pep squad. I was alone in the cold, praying that someone would give me guidance as to what residence I was in. It took me 45 minutes of wandering to realize that I was supposed to go to safety and security for help. As I walked through the back door of the SUB and into safety and security, I was greeted by a warm smile and an enthusiastic “Welcome to Acadia University.” They gave me a key card, my meal hall pass, an orientation packet, and all the information I needed to survive my first night at Acadia. Later, as I slowly walked into the KC Irving auditorium, I noticed several faces of other international students. As I got closer to the front of the room, I had the distinct feeling that I wasn’t alone anymore.
In my first month at Acadia, I found it hard to make friends. Everyone had already established their friend groups by the winter semester. There wasn’t any need for a new friend. Let me be clear, though. My story has a happy ending. My time as an international student has not been bad at all. I was fortunate enough to have great experiences that overshadowed any bad ones. I found that making friends takes a little bit of confidence and a big heart. I have other international friends who didn’t understand western culture and struggled to fit in. They clung to themselves and got swallowed by their loneliness. I have other friends who became depressed as they missed home – a result of suppressing their emotions.
I write this article to those who are Canadian citizens. Step out of your comfort zone and make friends with an international or exchange student. Beneath our exterior, all we are hoping for is to fit in and make friends. Be confident enough to go up to an international student and ask them to join you for lunch. You could learn so much from each other. I love telling my friends unique stories about my life back home and about the differences between our cultures. Be bold. You can never have too many friends.