What It’s Like to be an International Student at Holderness

September 20, 2017

You walk into campus when everything is new and “Boom!” someone greets you with a language you’re not yet familiar with. It took awhile until you realized that you should respond in English.


One of the most overwhelming things I bumped into everyday when I came here was the tradition of saying “and” and “What’s up?” At the inception of such culture, I had to twist, turn, and drill every nerve of my head to recall what I am doing, when everything is still in confusion. Later on, I learned that “nothing much” can be my good enough default answer. I promise when I was learning English in TOEFL, an English test for non-native English speakers, classes in Vietnam, I did not learn “decent,” “extra,” “That was sick” or these sorts of phrases. When I sat at a table, I did not understand what people were talking about or how I should respond so I wouldn’t interrupt the flow of the conversation. These are just a few problems. In fact, now I figured out I was not alone in the struggle.


I had a chance to interview some of our international friends who experienced difficulty adjusting to a new environment.


“You know, sometimes I feel like they are talking about something that I don’t know, and I don’t know how to use the words like them either.”


“Sometimes I feel like some people don’t like me because my English is not good, and I speak really slow, so they’d rather not talk to me.”


“I also feel like the teachers don’t recognize the fact that I am an international student. Sometimes when the teacher said the prompt and I did not understand it, but I did not dare to ask because the class was so quiet and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. And I couldn’t search the word using my laptop in class, so sometimes I was lost when that word was important to understand the concept, so I was kind of lost.”

“As an international student, when I am so far from home, I have to learn to take care of myself and become more independent.”


The lack of common topics, the lack of interest in getting to know someone and respect for his or her background simultaneously caused trouble for some international students. To what extent does Holderness learn more about the world through international students? When was the last time we were able to recognize the diversity in cultures that international students bring to Holderness? In order words, what is the role of international students in our school?


I understand different interests disengage groups of personalities, but one question I have been thinking about is: How should we balance diversity and conformity?


Overall, there are inherent differences among countries and cultures. Some of the related distinctions can be social aspects, biased arbitration due to different standards, moral and behavioral scruples. I remember when I decided to study on a Saturday night, the teachers were very concerned because I wasn’t out socializing. To me, you shouldn’t pressure kids into being social. It’s a natural process for me to talk to all my friends in school and enjoy their company myself. Socializing is supposed to be a method of relieving one’s stress, not to accentuate it. Having to be in an activity where I feel against the things I was taught is not a way to socialize.


Only a happy person can bring happiness and joy to everyone else, and only comfort brings happiness. While being a part of the community is essential, it’s also important that everyone is able to feel comfortable being themselves and able to engross themselves in the diversity and uniqueness that the individuals provide.


This idea is not solely limited to international students because all individuals should be approached with an open mind. Beauty may not lie in the way someone acts or how he or she looks, but dissembles itself in the inner thoughts. Ultimately, the one who learns the most about humanity and the mundane world is the one who can make wise and comprehensive solutions to any problem and lead others towards a unanimous and pleasant outcome. Will Holderness want to challenge itself to explore new things and accumulate all for its life-long journey? After walking across America and listening to so many stories, no matter if he felt uncomfortable talking to homophobes or racists, was Andrew more equipped to enter the next stage of his life?

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