By KALEY FECH
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Over 12 percent of Michigan State University students are international, according to the Office for International Students and Scholars.
The students come from over 140 countries for both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Moving to a new country with a different culture can be challenging. Add school to that equation, and it takes getting used to.
“I have never lived away from family,” Fateh Mohammed said. “It’s a major life change to come here. I’m living by myself, I’m cooking for myself, I’m doing work, and I am studying, so it’s a lot to take in during the first semester.”
Mohammed, 25, is a first-year graduate student from India studying construction management.
“They say the first semester is usually the hardest for international students because we are getting to know the place,” he said.
For people around the world, food is an important part of their culture. When you live in your home country, it’s easy to take those foods for granted because they’re always available. But in a new country, it can be difficult to find them.
“We eat a lot of rice, and it’s hard to find the type of rice we eat at home,” said Divia Yurana, 18, a freshman from Indonesia studying hospitality business.
Some students change their diets.
“Being a Muslin, there is a only a certain kind of meat that I eat,” Mohammed said. “I knew when I was coming here that I would have a lot of problems finding restaurants that serve it. My diet used to contain a lot of meat, but now I have become somewhat of a vegetarian.”
Others bring food from home with them.
Boitshoko Molefhi, a first-year graduate student studying public policy, said that instead of packing a suitcase with clothes, he fills it with food to bring to the U.S.
Molefhi, 25, is from Botswana.
For some, adapting to a new culture can be difficult.
“I am an introvert, and I’m very shy, so I’m still getting used to making friends again,” Mohammed said. “I have not made a lot of American or international friends. I have kind of stuck with people from my country.”
Molefhi said it takes him longer to develop relationships with people who aren’t from Africa.
“You’re dealing with people with an entirely different mindset,” he said. “Having to deal with a culture where people are self first and then others is a challenge because you often find yourself in a situation where you’re giving and not getting back.”
Yurana said she likes the people here and that they’re really welcoming, but she finds it easier to connect with people from her country.
Every student has his or her own reasons for coming to Michigan State.
Yurana said her parents wanted her to study in the United States to receive a good education and improve her English skills.
Mohammed said that after receiving his bachelor’s degree in India, he began working but wasn’t quite able to apply what he’d learned in the field.
“I couldn’t quite get the theory out into the practical, so that made me think I was missing something,” he said.
He added that he came to the United States because he also wanted global exposure.
Yurana said she feels like she’s adjusted to life in America, and her time here has forced her out of her comfort zone, which she said has been a good experience.
Mohammed said he feels like his experiences here are helping him.
“I don’t think I’ve completely adjusted, but I’m making these small changes here and there to adapt to the U.S.,” he said.
There were 6,260 international students enrolled at Michigan State in the fall 2018 semester.
This story is part of package on the experience of international students after their first six months at Michigan State.