Angela Lee, an international student from Santiago, Chile said the events hosted by the International Welcome Week Team exposed her to American culture and reminded her she was not alone.
Lee said she had prepared for her transition to the United States, but it was still terrifying. She said incoming freshmen should come to IU with an open mind, be ready to explore and to ask questions.
“It is hard to be an international student, sometimes you will feel homesick, you will not understand some words, you may have difficulties navigating the new environment, understanding American humor, or getting used to the food around, but at the end of the day, it is an amazing and rewarding experience,” Lee said.
It’s an opportunity to grow as a person and a stepping stone into the future, she said.
Lee is now part of the International Welcome Week Team because she wanted to be a familiar face to say hello to other international students around campus.
Lee said she spent all of her time in her dorm room talking to her friends at home during her first few days in Bloomington, she said, which made her homesickness worse. She realized the best way for her to overcome homesickness was to go outside and push herself past her comfort zone.
“Once you realize that everyone is going through the same process it would be easier to connect with other students,” she said.
Lee said one thing she wished she knew before coming to IU was that there are many things to do off-campus, such as food, shops and places to hike.
Students may have to step outside of their comfort zone to learn about the resources and opportunities that are available to them, Katie Goodread, IU coordinator for International Orientation and Outreach, said.
Checking email is one of the best ways to learn about campus resources and keep up to date, Goodread said.
Exploring Bloomington through events like the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival or places like Griffy Lake and the Comedy Attic is also a good way to connect with the community, she said.
Fourth street has many international restaurants, some of which offer halal and vegetarian options, she said. Food delivery apps, such as RICEPO, Door Dash and Btown Menus give those without cars more access to restaurants in Bloomington.
International grocery stores can be a more affordable way for students to get a taste of home, Goodread said. These include 4th Street International Market, World Foods Market, B-Town International Market, Apna Bazaar International Market, Rong Cheng Supermarket and Little Italy Market.
Adlin Iskandar said she wished she knew how to navigate the resources on campus, such as which office or department to contact about a bursar bill, whether she had to pay to use the bus or the Student Recreational Sports Center or what the procedure to get a medical check-up is.
Orientation week and current students helped Iskandar answer a lot of these questions, she said.
Iskandar also said she wished she knew that there were Asian markets here, and that her diet didn’t have to completely change in the United States.
Being involved with the IU Malaysian Student Association helped Iskandar get over her homesickness, and the group felt like a big family, she said. They had monthly gatherings and were involved in events hosted by the Office of International Services.
The transition can be difficult, but international students don’t have to sacrifice any essential part of who they are, Iskandar said.
“Sometimes during the journey, you might feel lonely, confused and frustrated in this new environment,” Iskandar said. “However, know that you bring your own unique perspective to any spaces that you are in.”