For starters this is going to be a bit of a personal post. I’m not going to lie being an international student is as hard as it is rewarding. Actually it is probably so rewarding due to how hard it is sometimes. Having this experience has the tendency to accelerate finding out who you are as a person and becoming comfortable in your own skin. This starts the second you land in an entirely new place knowing no one and being surrounded by nothing familiar. You have the luxury of putting your entire past behind you and starting over. While this sounds nice, which it is, it means that you start from square one with friendships. A problem I see often is people latching on the first people that are nice to them/ show an interest in hanging out with them and losing all focus of why they themselves came here. Obviously you are meant to meet new people but you do need to be cautious and not afraid of it taking some time to find those people who will truly enrich your experience here, basically be selfish, it is the best thing you can do for yourself while you’re here. To be honest I made the mistake of opening up to people too early and latching on and it did not end well for me. I recently realized that because I was afraid of not having friends it actually pro longed me finding my real ones or at least people I truly clicked with.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that I’m a bit of an introvert and also a pretty serious person. So NEWSFLASH you don’t need to be an extrovert to study abroad. I mean I know how to have fun but in general I’m just laid back which can sometimes come across as boring. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea but the good news is that since being here I have learned to be very comfortable with who I am because there are people out there who accept it, who knew right? Before coming here and when I first got here I thought that since the people I wanted to be friends with were and acted a certain way, I of course had to act like them cause if not then we wouldn’t be friends. I reflect on this thought now and look at the friends I have and I’m so happy to have those who truly accept me for me. I also learned how to be happy alone and essentially hanging out with myself, which I believe is very important for people our age. I owe this and many other things to my international experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Now the fear of not making any friends or not being surrounded by ‘your people’ should not scare anybody by any means because one of the coolest things about JCU is the international student community. We are all so supportive of each other and we also have some great leadership and people who care about us in the international office at JCU as well as the JCU student association. There are various clubs (Ultimate Frisbee is a great one), counseling services and helplines to help you if you are struggling and just need someone to talk to.
Now I completely understand that everyone is different and everyone has their own experience and benefits in their own way but this is a part of all of this that means so much to me and if it speaks to even one person out there, that would be pretty cool.