It’s safe to assume that the transition from high school to college can be a tricky one. Packing up and starting a new life away from home isn’t as easy as we would like to be. But what happens when the home you’re leaving is almost 5,000 miles away, in a different continent?
I sat down with Idil Guney from Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss what life as an international student looks like at the University of Massachusetts.
Idil is your typical wide-eyed freshman eager to learn about her major of choice and make new friends. She’s a linguistics major, in large part because she enjoys learning new languages, like Korean, Portuguese, and English. In fact, it was linguistics that brought her to UMass Amherst.
“Their linguistics program is really good; it’s widely known. So that’s why I chose UMass Amherst,” Guney says. “I was excited about linguistics, because I really wanted to get into the subject, and learn a lot of things and discuss about it — so I was really motivated to come here,” she added.
Guney arrived just a few weeks ago, and hit the ground running. Some of her favorite parts of campus include the Learning Commons, located in the basement of DuBois Library, where she says she can “study really well,” as well as the linguistics department, located in the fourth floor of the Integrative Learning Center.
Another thing that Guney likes about UMass Amherst is the faculty and staff, who are always there to help in times of need.
“I like the professors, they’re really friendly, and nice, and helpful. I like the staff, they’re really friendly and helpful. When I have a question, they answer it, I can email them multiple times a day, so the communication is really good,” she explains.
But coming to UMass Amherst was a big change for Guney. Istanbul has a population of 15.07 million, Amherst by comparison, has a population of 37 thousand. Adapting to a new small-town life was a fear Guney had upon coming to campus.
“Because it’s small, I go to the same places, I do the same things. I didn’t know if I could have fun in a small town, and I think that was the thing that I feared the most. And maybe adapting my life here, how am I going to make friends? Are they going to like me? Am I going to have difficulties understanding the class?” Guney said.
“Sometimes I miss my home, my family, my friends, because it’s a new life here, and I’m still trying to get used to it and I miss food, my culture,” she added.
For students out there thinking about leaving their home countries and study somewhere else, Guney has a few words of wisdom.
“First, I would try to find international students, and join clubs, and try to start conversations, and try to be friendly. It’s not an easy process, because making friends is a commitment,” Guney said.
“They should first accept that it’s going to be difficult. They should get prepared emotionally, they should admit that yeah, it’s going to be hard, but I’ll get over it in time, I’ll get used to it if I make friends. Because, it’s not like you’re going away forever.”