Students have a tendency to treat international students like the “new kid” in school. Naturally, we want to pick their brains about their lifestyles.
This semester, Georgia State welcomed the most diverse class in its history, including a number of international students. Like all students, internationals face challenges.
“I was a little scared to talk to students and professors at first. I didn’t know what to say and what not to say,” said Ph.D. biophysics major Sahil Bajaj.
Bajaj is originally from Punjab, India and said his reason for choosing Georgia State was simple. They were the first ones to call.
“The hardest thing at first was the language barrier, and now that I’m getting passed that it’s just how to get involved in this culture,” Xilyn said.
Georgia State’s department of economics is what drew Xilyn, a fifth-year Ph.D. student from Southern China. She chose this university because of the program’s good reputation.
Other students were recommended Georgia State through their former advisers, like Ukrainian graduate student Bakhtilie Fazylova.
“It came down to Georgia State and two other universities and I chose Georgia State because it was in a big city, and because it had the best ratings in my program,” said Fazylova, a non-profit management major.
International students have to familiarize themselves with American culture, language, curriculum, grading scale and attitudes, often for the first time.
Fazylova, who started at Georgia State only a month ago, chose a quick route to educating herself in American culture.
“I decided to rent a house with American students. Sometimes we have trouble understanding each others’ cultures, but we learn from one another,” Fazylova said.
Georgia State is the Southeast’s leading urban research institution. Bajaj, who has recently been published for his research work in neuroscience, expressed his happiness with choosing this school.
“There are so many differences from India,” Bajaj said. “For research it is so much better; I can go to so many different advisers about my research.”
“If I want to know something about computer science, I can go to the adviser for that department and they are very helpful. In India it is not so much like that,” he continued.
Atlanta itself is also an attraction to international students.
“I love this city,” Xilyn said. “The weather is like, perfect. I also find my professors to be very helpful and I learn a lot from them.”
It seems though, that the path to success as an international student parallels that of traditional students. It helps to get involved, be open minded and try to step outside of the comfort zone. Bajaj has done just that by becoming a member of many campus organizations.
“I’m in a lot of associations, so I’m involved in at least 5 events every year,” Bajaj said. “There are so many different students in my associations, so we learn a lot about each others’ cultures. And for new students we plan events to help connect international students and other students.”
The international students are in various stages of deciding precisely what they want to do after graduation.
According to Bajaj, the longer you stay in the United States, the less likely you are to want to leave. He is currently unsure about whether he wants to return home or continue research in the United States.
“I miss my family and relatives,” Bajaj said. “I only get to see them once every two years.”
“If I do return to India I will continue my research in Bangalore, India,” he continued.
Xilyn was also unsure about what to do at the inevitable crossroad she and many other students will face after they receive a degree.
“The hardest thing is not knowing the future. I really don’t know what I’m going to do after graduation or where I’m getting a job,” says Xilyn.
Fazylova explained that she would return to the Ukraine with her degree.
“I plan to go back to the Ukraine because I can apply knowledge I gained here to help transform the society within my capabilities,” Fazylova said.