As we “March” into April, many of you are thinking of what comes after high school. As you prepare for post-secondary, such as college or university, we wanted to give you an international student’s perspective on taking this next big step in life. Each year, there are more than a million international students studying in colleges/universities in the U.S.! It’s exciting, but can also be overwhelming, especially when facing it in a country that is not quite home.
Read down below for one student’s experience and advice.
Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay
Name: Antonella Di Guido
Age: 24 years old
Hometown: Pozzuoli (Province of Naples, which is in Southern Italy)
Can you tell us about yourself, your family and what brought you to America?
“I am currently in my senior year at Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania majoring in Intercultural Studies (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – TESOL). I love languages, and my hope is to be able to help people learn languages. My other passions include reading, writing, music, dancing and food. I hope to write a book one day, and produce my own music album.
Here is a photo of me and my family (dad and mom on the right; my brother-in-law, younger brother on the left, and my older sister in the middle above me).”
“My dream as a little girl was to learn English so I could be an interpreter and visit America. Little did I know that my dream would come true after I graduated from high school. I had the opportunity to travel with my church to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to be an interpreter for an event. It was there that I was introduced to an American family, and Lancaster Bible College.”
What are some of the cultural differences between your home country and America?
“The Southern Italian culture is very spontaneous, warm, welcoming, unstructured (and full of hugs). I have had to get used to the culture where I am now where things seem more defined, formal, and time oriented. Needless to say, I miss food from home! Also, mealtimes from where I come from are all about the enjoyment of the food and company, where people take their time to eat and have conversations that go on and on. Mealtimes here in America seem to be quicker and a bit rushed.”
What do you appreciate the most about your college experience?
“I would say the professors, friendships and academics. I feel like my professors care about me and want to help me succeed. The meaningful connections/friendships I have made are very important to me since they are a “home away from home.” I also enjoy the academic component of college; all my classes (even the difficult ones!) are interesting and engaging. I find them meaningful as they are applicable to my passions and pursuits.”
What were some of the challenges faced, and how did you overcome them?
“The biggest one for me (and for most international students) is dealing with culture shock. I have learned to recognize the signs (frustration, anger, loneliness), so I can deal with it sooner rather than let it overwhelm me later. I have found it helpful to have open communication with others.
Another challenge that I had faced was exhaustion. I am an overachiever by nature. I have learned that it takes me longer to understand my course work since English is my second language. Now I expect that, and I plan my time accordingly. Having one day a week to rest and not focus on schoolwork has helped me greatly.”
What advice would you have for a fellow international student who is transitioning from high school to college?
“My advice would be to start preparing yourself the summer before your freshman year of college. The pace and demands of college are different from high school. You will need to give yourself some time to adjust, and set new rhythms. Do not underestimate the workload; discipline will be your friend.
Also, balance is key – balance between socializing (friendships) and having alone time to decompress. Balance between staying close to your own culture and immersing in the new culture.
Very importantly, give yourself some grace, identify a few people you can trust and ask for help when needed”