Time flies. Just one year ago, I started my adventure at Montclair State as an international student. Now, Montclair State has become my second home. I know many of the building locations, I am involved in several activities on campus and I have spent my fair share of time in the small city of Montclair. I have friends and feel comfort in my new environment. Most importantly, I am now able to communicate fluently.
However, all of this did not happen overnight. As an international student, I recall constantly reminding myself that everything would be fine, but deep down, I felt lost.
I am not the only one that has felt this way. According to Montclair State’s website, there are more than 500 international students from over 50 different countries enrolled at the university. Each international student comes from a unique background with its own culture, habits and character. It is easy to see why each international student has a very particular set of needs.
During my first year as an international student, I felt helpless when it came to public transportation. I had no idea how to use a bus. What number? Where was the stop? How much do I pay? What is the route? Several $70 taxi rides later, I was able to learn how to use the public transportation system.
The other obstacle I faced was in the classroom. I had a lot of difficulty understanding what my professors and fellow classmates were saying. Each day, I pushed myself and, while it was extremely tiring, it was well worth the effort. Luckily, nearly all of my professors posted the reading material on Canvas so I could read and review it after class.
Even though daily life provided more than enough pressure, the professors and students within my program encouraged me to find confidence. Although it was difficult, I always felt supported.
Generally, Montclair State provides international students with an abundance of help. International student officers are as welcoming as they are helpful. Also, the English as a Second Language course I took helped me not only improve my English, but also create friendships that will last a long time.
However, while Montclair State’s international student program has a firm foundation, there are still many ways to improve it. For example, having routine small group discussions can help reduce the amount of pressure students feel while in the classroom setting. Currently, the university offers Connecting Across Cultures meetings, but speaking from experience, these meetings are not always easy to go to. At times, it is hard to share about something so personal in a group of complete strangers. After attending one meeting, I really began to enjoy it. However, just getting in the door was the hardest step.
I have definitely grown to love these meetings. They are open to all students on campus. Having one group that is specifically for international students would help a student not feel so alone and allow them to benefit from peer support like I have.
Another way to help a student would be by providing them with a place to submit their questions. That way, they can be answered quickly.
While international students face a wide array of obstacles, they need to have the resources to resolve them and prevent them from snowballing and impacting their academic performance and quality of life.
Yes, it is all here. With some changes, every new international student will be able to see that as well.