When out of state students come to college, they have to leave their families who are thousands of miles away.
This transition is more extreme for international students. They have to adjust to a new culture and set of norms alongside being far from family and home.
Students at SPU represent a host of unique countries from around the world.
However, miles away from their family, international students face unique challenges, having to coordinate calls or face-times with family and friends who may be going to bed when the sun is rising in Seattle, or not being able to fly home for the weekend or short holidays when that flight is 12 to 24 hours. Navigating these obstacles can be tricky.
No one knows these challenges better than Riley Evans. Evans moved to Seattle from Brisbane, Australia. Now a star athlete and senior guard on the SPU women’s basketball team, Evans talks about adjusting to life in America.
“It was overwhelming at first, but I was pretty lucky because I was never alone. I automatically had friends because of the team,” Evans said.
Evans also noted that “the hardest thing is just not being able to relate to anyone else because I am the only Australian international student. Sometimes I’ll say certain things and no one will understand what I mean because it’s Australian slang.”
She recalled other challenges that she faced in moving away from home and transitioning to life in the U.S.
“When I came to SPU, it was the first time I had been in the United States. The first week was quite exhausting because I had to get used to a lot of new environments,” Evans noted.
“I definitely had to get used the driving on the opposite side of the road than I’m used to.”
Evans found out about SPU because of another basketball player on the women’s team that she knew from back in Australia.
“I knew a coach in Australia that she also knew and she recommended the school to me because Rachel had had a good experience here. From there I just sent in highlight film to the coach and then they started recruiting me,” Evans said about how she initially came to SPU.
Despite the challenges that come with moving to a new country, Evans has been able to create her own community and home at SPU.
“My experience at SPU so far has been awesome,” Evans said. “I love the Christian culture on campus. I think that because if the Christian aspect, people and the professors are super nice and friendly. I have felt at home at SPU. I think that has a lot to do with my team but overall the SPU community has been very welcoming.”
However, above all else, “I love the U.S., but Australia is definitely the best country in the world.”
Another international student,Vivian Yu, also shared her perspective on adjusting to life at SPU.
“Coming to SPU as an international student has been easy. We came early for international student orientation, we did a lot of activities, we were introduced to a lot of resources SPU provides and met our fellow classmates from other countries,” Yu said.
“The school provides a cultural adjustment class to provide a space for us to address our problems and issues with life and school here in America.”
The support systems on campus made it easier to acclimate according to Yu, who is originally from mainland China.
Because of the small campus size and sense of community at SPU, many international students have found it easier to adjust to life in America.
SPU also has support systems in place that make the transition for international students less daunting. One such system is the international club on campus.
President of the International club, Yingjie Cao talked about how her club tries to create a home on campus for SPU’s international students.
“We create opportunities to connect the international students with the domestic students to help them get familiar with the culture and make friends. We did events like celebrating Chinese lunar year and people had a chance to see the Chinese traditions,” Cao said. “We made lanterns and practiced calligraphy. Those activities also help domestic students to further understand the culture and background of international students.”
With these fun events, Cao and her team are bringing students closer together and fostering a further sense of community on campus.
The International club now has 50 to 60 members. Cao’s goal is to support all international students as they transition to life in America.
“One thing we focused on is building an interpersonal relationship with them on campus or outside of campus,” Cao said.
This is incredibly important as moving to a new country can be challenging and Cao’s club is a great outlet for resources and support for international students.
“Many international students have difficulty getting used to the classroom dynamic and since we have a good relationship with them, they talk about their concerns to us,” Cao remarked.
Regardless of where they came from, SPU’s international students add new perspectives to the classroom and culture at SPU. Once they overcame initial culture shock and obvious adjustments these international students have been able to find a place to call home at SPU.