Embracing a new way of life, keeping cultural roots

first_imgFor most students, the days and weeks before move-in day of freshman year are filled with a mix of anxiety and excitement, as they prepare to leave home, usually for the first time — and begin a new period of their life. And when that trip to college includes a flight halfway around the world that will end in a place and culture totally foreign, the experience can be especially daunting.For Vignesh Balasubramanian, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, the process was daunting even before he boarded his 20-hour flight from India to Los Angeles. After Balasubramanian was accepted to USC, he had to interview with an immigration officer and prove he would be able to finance his education just to be granted a visa.“[The process] was very uncertain,” Balasubramanian said. “It’s just very cumbersome. There’s a lot of paper work and there are always a ton of questions. It’s just very tedious. It’s a pain.”Source: USC Office of International Services – Design by Kathryn Mock | Daily TrojanThat’s just the start of the uncertainty for many international students, a number of whom are the first in their families to study in the United States. Nationally and at USC, the number of international students has grown significantly in the past 20 years.“I had this notion that … I wanted to come to some place different,” Balasubramanian said. “The best place to be is in the U.S. for cutting edge science and technology.”So, for the sake of his education, Balasubramanian, like many others, left home and ventured to Los Angeles.“There was definitely cultural shock,” he said. “The way people speak is very different. We’re not as loud and outgoing as Americans are. I did miss things about my culture.”Balasubramanian said it took him a few weeks to get used to the way people speak, but he feels that was his only real challenge in adjusting to life in another country and culture.For students who might have more trouble with the task, student groups play a large role in helping to ease the adjustment.Shiven Gandhi former president of the Association of Indian Students — which is one of the most highly represented countries at USC — helps acclimate to Los Angeles and to college life.AIS provides Indian students with help finding housing, understanding fundamental California law, opening a bank account and other necessities, and creates a community for those who might feel strange in their new country.AIS also offers accommodation services, which place students into a house for a few days at no cost while they look for another place to stay. Last year, Gandhi said, AIS placed 180 students with volunteer hosts.“For most of the students it’s their first time leaving their parents and first time moving out and staying alone, so with these services they are more accustomed to the U.S. culture and how to become adjusted to the education system,” Gandhi said.AIS also celebrates many of the festivals that take place in India, to help students feel more at home and to stay in touch with their own culture.The Office of International Services offers help to international students, and Tony Tambascia, director of OIS, said other programs like the American Language Institute and academic units and administrative departments on campus also do their part to ensure international students thrive.“Given that many international students are quite far from home, and are often living in the U.S. for the first time, it’s understandable that it might take a little time to adjust to being in a new environment,” Tambascia wrote in an email. “The good news is there are many resources at USC to help students … We are here to do all we can to help international students to be successful and make the most of their time at USC.”As for Balasubramanian, he said it took some getting used to, but he’s now accustomed to his new American way of life.“The best way to deal with it is acceptance,” he said. “That was the way I dealt with it, got used to it and accepted the fact that it’s not going to be the same.”last_img

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