My International Student Experience

Daphne Ayodele / Stillman College »

Personal experiences differ for international students across different tribes, countries, and cultures. Leaving your country can be for all kinds of reasons. Many people leave their countries to seek better opportunities, while some leave simply to have a different experience. I left my country, Nigeria, to further my education.

As an international student at Stillman College, everything was so new to me: the food, the people, the weather, and the experience as a whole. Ever since I finished high school, I knew studying overseas was the right path for me. I was scared and excited at the same time. Leaving my family, my town, and my country was definitely the most terrifying for me. I was also anxious about making new friends, fitting in, and having a new education system. Orientation week didn’t even help the situation because people hardly showed up. I had my hopes up as orientation week is when people meet and make friends but not a lot of people showed up. The few that showed up seemed like they knew each other from high school and they had already chosen their friends, and that really made me feel like the odd one out. I thought I was going to be friendless for my next four years but luckily, I met a few other Nigerian students and they became my first and best sets of friends. 

Seventeen and Solo

I came in as a minor, which I am sure you will agree comes with many disadvantages. For example, I am currently not able to open a bank account without a legal guardian or any family relation. Unfortunately, my family members are not even in the same state as my school. So I either need to wait till I’m 18 or wait till I visit any of them so they can help me with the bank issues. It all still balls down to waiting on something. It’s so hard to stay on campus without a card because you can’t order an Uber, buy clothes online, pay your monthly bills, or even order food from a local restaurant. 

I got a Mastercard from Nigeria, but it’s almost as useless as not having a card because it has a low monthly limit. Most people say I’m smart to have entered college at that age. Sometimes I take it as a compliment, but other times I feel like I don’t fit in. Another disadvantage I’ve had as a minor is that I wanted to board a Greyhound bus to North Carolina for Thanksgiving, but they said I have to be 18 and above to board a bus. 

New Holidays and Traditions

Speaking of Thanksgiving, another new thing to me are all of the holidays in the US. There are a lot of holidays like St. Patrick’s day, Halloween, Labor Day, and others I don’t even know of yet. In Nigeria, we had holidays, but we didn’t celebrate any of these, which is going to be very new and different. Back in October, people were debating if there should be a holiday for Columbus Day or not. My Old Testament teacher mentioned the controversy around this day, because the man they said “founded” America killed and enslaved many Native Americans. It was interesting to talk about a holiday that includes a history of genocide.

A New Climate

In Nigeria, we have only two seasons (dry and rainy season), so experiencing four seasons was definitely a big deal for me. Summer was very hot for me. Even in Nigeria where it is always hot, the heat here was unbearable. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to experience snow, but it doesn’t snow in Nigeria, so coming to the US made my dream come true. Fall weather is also a very beautiful season; you get to do fall decorations, pumpkin carvings, and take beautiful fall photos with fall clothes. 

School Spirit

The weather is not the only thing that made a great experience. In fact, the emphatic school spirit is a large part of the Stillman experience. Back in Nigeria, we had a sports event called “Inter-House Sports,” which included sports like track and field, high jump, long jump, etc. 

Football is way different in the US. It’s called football, but you don’t even use your feet to move the ball. They call the football we play back in Nigeria soccer, but they don’t play it at my college. It’s hard when you don’t get to watch your favorite sport in college, but I’ve gotten to like volleyball and basketball. We don’t play volleyball as a sport in Nigeria, but rather on the beach as fun. These are just a few highlights of my experiences as an international student.