As I enjoy my summer vacation before my second year at UCLA, I've caught myself reflecting on my first year of college. College is a rollercoaster for everyone, but being an international student comes with its own set of challenges. When I decided to move to UCLA which is 13,382km or 8,315 miles from home, was the best choice for me I also knew it would not be an easy one.
The first thing I missed was the food back home, while LA is a melting pot of cuisines and cultures, none of the food tasted like it did back home. It often was a pale imitation of home.
Then came the longing to be back with my family and despite the constant Skype sessions and phone calls, I felt like an outsider as I caught up with my family.
Like most freshmen, I longed for the familiarity and facilities back home. Having a roommate let alone two was a strange concept, it was not the same as sharing a room with siblings! Trying to navigate the complex rules that govern UCLA is even more daunting when your support system is halfway across the world.
Making friends was harder as well. However, cultural clubs and other such organizations are the best areas to find friends. With all the welcoming events during the first few weeks, the effects might be an overwhelmed mind, an ever-growing contact list and a rapidly increasing Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram friend requests. While you might not find your best friend in those weeks, you'll make friends with all sorts of people and have experiences you might have not normally had if you had stayed within your comfort zone.
From going to frat parties, to having your nachos trampled on at your first football game and dragging your drunk friends back to the dorms, my first few weeks were hectic and fun, to say the least. And in these experiences, you find people you enjoy spending time with, and eventually become your people. When classes begin, figuring out how to balance schoolwork and fun becomes an evolving juggling act that becomes second nature eventually.
Despite having my fears and trepidations when navigating the American college life, whether it be the tense political climate when it comes to immigration or the general insanity of bureaucracy when filing documents to get a job or services as an international student, moving to UCLA has to be the best decision I made so far.
I've had an exciting first year, made some incredible friends, met a few celebrities and had the opportunity to stretch my comfort zone farther than before. While my experience might not be the same as everyone else's, I believe it sums up many of our experiences as an international student. Crazy, sometimes melancholic but incredibly satisfying! The key is to find the Cristina to your Meridith, cause being alone is never the answer.