My Life As…An International Student

While every college girl shares many of the same college experiences (Procrastinating, Blue Book exams ), she also carves her own path and has her own unique adventure. Have you ever wondered what it’s like for other girls? What it’s like to be an online student? To get married?! To be a commuter student?Well wonder no more. Our one-of-a-kind CollegeCandy writers (and readers!) are sharing their unique experiences and opening our eyes to different college worlds.

Being an international student is kind of like being a celebrity. No, seriously, hear me out. Everybody wants to talk to you. Everybody think you’re really interesting. Everybody is fascinated by you. At first.

Everyone wants to hear about your lifestyle and your culture, and they find everything you say hilarious. Like celebrities, everybody already has their own ideas about you. Everybody already thinks they know you because of what they’ve seen on the TV or what they’ve been told. And then they’re disappointed when you aren’t exactly how they imagined. They realize you’re not exotic or exciting. They realize, well, you’re just like them really.

Like a celebrity representing their brand, I feel like I’m constantly representing my country. Sometimes I force myself to conform to stereotypes and revel in my Britishness far more than I would do at home.

Being an international student is kind of a double-edged sword. A lot of time I love the attention. I know that all I have to do is open my mouth and people will be all over me with “ohemgee, where are you from?” It’s especially fun in my Shakespeare class, where my teacher is always making comments only I’ll understand, or apologizing for generalizations. Everywhere I go people strike up conversations with me the minute they find out I’m English.

But it’s not always fun. Like a celebrity, sometimes I wish I’d just be treated like a normal person. I sometimes hate being classified differently because I’m not American. And then there are the times that things I say or do are completely misunderstood. I once had to repeat the phrase “I want to borrow a camera” so many times I almost burst into tears. People find it really funny to be like “what do you call this?” (think of the scene in Love Actually), and pretend they don’t know what I mean when I say “jumper.” People often brush aside what I say as “oh she’s British” or try to force stereotypes upon me. The worst is when people assume that everything I do is a “British thing”; nope, me leaving my ketchup un-refrigerated is just a Charlotte thing (I like it at room temperature, okay!).

Then there’s the culture shock. Unlike my friends spending their school years in France or Germany, I didn’t expect to find much of a difference. It’s only America, I thought, we speak the same language, we watch the same TV shows, and listen to the same music. But the culture shock can be tough. Everything from food to the schooling system is different. My classes are different, my essays are different, and my grading is different. I even have to get used to an almost new language; store instead of shop, jumper instead of sweater, trunk instead of boot.

Even the spelling is different here, which causes me to have a constant internal debate- do I spell the American way? Is that sacrificing my British-ness? What happens when I get back home to England? For now I am including all my ‘U’s and my ‘S’s have not yet become ‘Z’s. I’m not sure if it’s only a matter of time.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a great experience. Being different means I can get away with asking stupid questions, or using my foreignness as an excuse to make mistakes or get confused. And people do generally view me with a sense of awe and wonder, which is something I will miss when I get home. Plus, more than anything else, it’s really made me internalize the way the Americans feel about the British. Okay, there are exceptions, but most people are fascinated by my country and who I am. Which, coupled with nostalgia and homesickness, makes me really damn proud to be British. I’m having a great time here.  I’m not sure if I’d want to feel like I was famous forever, but it definitely is exciting when everybody wants to talk to you at a party.

But then again, I’m not sure if I’m going to miss being asked questions like “so, what language do they speak in England?”

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The Post-Grad Journey: Bring on 2011!
The Post-Grad Journey: Bring on 2011!
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