My Master’s Life As An International Student

My Master’s Life As An International Student

I still remember the first day when I stood on the Syracuse University campus. When I walked on Marshall Street and looked at the people and cars all around me. I felt scared because I was not familiar with everything; buildings, views, even Starbucks, which I went to for coffee everyday when I was in China. How could I order a vanilla latte? How would I describe my requests? As for these simple questions, basically, I had no idea at that time. This kind of unknown feeling made me anxious.

However, after one year and a half studying, now, I’ve grown up. Not only can I purchase coffees easily like I did in China and talk with others fluently, but I also see things from different points of view. In other words, I opened my mind. Moreover, I have a deeper sense about studying abroad and my major, Television, Radio and Film (TRF), than before.

Generally speaking, I experienced different phrases during this growth. I believe this process might happen with the majority of international students. Thus, I’d like to share some of my experience with freshers (new international students) and help them to pass the hard time successfully.


Phase One: Feeling Scared and Curious

During the first one or two months after arriving in Syracuse, my emotions switched from fear to excitement or the reverse again and again. One second I might be worrying about my presentation, my English. But the next second, I would be curious about the new patterns of studying, discussion and new knowledge in class. Especially when I got some positive feedback from my professors and classmates, my curiousness usually expended and encouraged me to try be more open and brave, and embrace the differences between western culture and oriental culture.

However, no one can get positive feedback all the time. The fact is that fear usually overwhelms excitement, but international students need to leave their comfort zone. It is definitely a tough experience.

I felt it was hard to give a clear speech, when I noticed my classmates’ confused faces. I started to be fearful. This is a kind of feeling in which I felt I could not deal with things, or might be called helplessness.


So how did I fight my fear?

Imagine a situation that when your classmates come to China and study in Chinese classes, would they do as well as you do now? Using the imagination is beneficial for international students to reduce their stress and fears when they are struggling in language issues.


Phase Two: Feeling Anxious and Confused

During the first half of the academic year, I started to be familiar with the campus, the structures of different classes, as well as my classmates and teachers. It seemed like the environment had turned out to be my new comfort zone. I could start to swim in here.

However, the truth is I started to be anxious and confused about my self-perception. The initial question: who am I?


Why did I feel like this? 

At that time, I had a lot of pressure related to academic requirements, family, and my friends living in China. Everyone knew I had stayed in the US for more than half a year, and they all believed I should speak English as well as native speakers. Unfortunately, I was not able to do it. And my other international friends also didn’t have the ability. The problem was that people had a higher standard for me during the period. And of course, I had the same higher standard for myself.

I became angry because I could not do the best.

I tried to be like a native speaker. I tried to parallel American students’ lives. I tried to push myself to attend parties, even though I am not a party animal. However these kinds of attempts didn’t help me to be better. Everyday I discussed the same topics with my American friends such as, “What do you want to do in the future?” “Do you like Chinese food?” “Did you start to find your internship?” These topics may be good for strangers to chat with each other, but it was not enough for me when I wanted to make friends here. I hated to talk about Chinese food, the Great Wall, or other Chinese things. I would like to share my personal opinions, instead of being regarded as one of the Chinese students.

Thus, I felt anxious because I didn’t do the best I thought I could, but I had pretended to be like that. Moreover, my English skill obviously didn’t improve because of talking about similar topics day-to-day.


How did I face the emotional problems?

To be honest, at that time I had no idea how. I just felt upset about everything.

But now, I know the answer.

On one hand, if you have similar problems, you should first place yourself in a correct location. You should accept that you are not a native speaker; it is okay that you don’t have a perfect accent. Secondly, you are also not a representative of Chinese government or your home country. For example, you don’t need to let everyone know how delicious Sichuan spicy food is and how cute pandas are. You are just you. The only thing you should do is be real.

On the other hand, you should know the truth that you don’t need to make a lot of friends here. You can ask yourself when you were in your home country, could you be cool with everyone? The answer must be no. In your whole life, you can’t keep friendships with everyone you meet.  When you understand that, the relationship problem can be figured out easily.


Phase Three: Feeling Confident

Yes, that is my current phase. During the process, I pay more attention to my major instead of people. For example, when I am on a team with my classmates to shoot a video, I tell myself that I am a professional filmmaker, instead of someone’s friend. Our only goal is to make a good video. If I have any suggestions or find any problems, I would like to voice it. Focusing on the task or assignment I am doing is always better than concentrating on keeping nice or other people’s feelings. I notice that when people pay more attention to other people, they usually find it hard to be brave or to be themselves. Many international students try to be a nice guy here. But the truth is that we pay a high tuition fee to study here because we want to develop our personal skills and learn , instead of being a nice guy.

Thus during the period, once I feel that I am struggling discussing with my teammates or raising my hand in class, I always tell myself that my goal of studying here is to learn something.

Although my English still has a lot of problems, that’s fine for me now. I am a filmmaker. The most important thing for me is to keep writing, keep shooting and keep learning.

Will I still feel anxious about new environments when I move to a new county or new city in the future? No, because I know what I want.

Xioyi Fu
TRF Graduate student in Newhouse. Film Lover

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