Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
If you had to describe your year using only one word, what would it be?
How were your first weeks on Campus? Did you experience cultural shock?
Since it was my first time in the United States, I was very nervous about the culture, making friends and adapting to the life on campus. However, my excitement was bigger than the fear for the unknown, so I started to be myself. From the first moment, I introduced myself to people in orientation, and tried to have conversations with them. Many of these students are now my best friends and some even my roommates for next year. I started to show up to all the events which welcomed incoming freshman and stayed myself busy overall. As for cultural shock… There are so many small differences that I was not aware of when I got to Indianapolis, such as: having a different toilet system (I swear the toilets in Spain are not the same as in the US), calling second floor what is supposed to be the first floor, complimenting random people about their clothes, driving everywhere, or eating in weird schedules. After a month, one is able to acknowledge most differences and learn how to adapt to it. I was definitely scared, confused, and lonely, but soon I was supported, encouraged and excited.
What is life like studying in the US? Is it what you expected?
The most important part of studying in the US is that you are not considered just a number. Even if you are expected to go study, get good grades and learn as much as you can from a professor, you go to college to go beyond that. I had heard before coming, that there is a sense of pride and belonging to the university, which is completely true. I cannot see myself studying in another institution and I see Indianapolis as my second home now, even if I have only lived there for a year. I expected to do more group projects and presentations, which I have seen, but there is also a lot of independence then it comes to them. I have been able to have more freedom than I ever did to write or research about something that really interests me and matters to me. Also, I have been able to have unique experiences through clubs, the Honors College, or programs around campus which have helped me become a better person and ultimately a better engineer; I never expected to learn how to debate correctly, learn about social issues and diversity, or create connections and build a network without those experiences.
What is your favorite place on campus?
I love being in the Campus Center, what is considered the heart of the campus, because I always run into friends and end up staying there for longer than I was expecting.
What extra activities / clubs / volunteering are you doing on campus?
As for clubs, I am a member of the Society of Women Engineers (also the Outreach Chair), and a member of Model of United Nations (I went last spring to ChoMUN, a conference in Chicago with my delegation). In my freshman year, I was a mentee in the Honors Mentoring Program, as well as in Women Engineers Network (I will also be a mentor) and a very active member of the International Peer Mentoring Program (now I am a mentor too). I have also taken leadership positions on campus. I was the president of the Honors Tower Council, and next year I will be the president elect of the Engineering Student Council. Additionally, I am an Alternative Trip Leader for Alternative Spring Break; my partner and I will organize a trip about immigration outside of Indiana. I went to New Orleans on a trip about gentrification and loved it, so I decided to apply to lead a trip.
What has been your best experience this year?
I had always wanted to be in a place with diversity. When I am around people from all around the world, I learn so much about different cultures, faiths, and views that help me grow as a person. Being a part of the International Peer Mentoring Program has been the best part of my university experience so far. I got support from students and advice whenever I needed it and they helped me get to know more international students within the program. They were my first family in the United States and I have so many good memories with all the mentors and mentees. There is an environment of excitement to know about each other, have fun, and make an impact; those are the things I needed to have in my freshman year to empower me to be involved on campus. I love having friends from so many countries, from Saudi Arabia, India to Nigeria or Mexico among so many others.
What would you say to the international students who are going to start their Freshmen year?
BE YOURSELF AND GET INVOLVED. Those two things are more than enough to survive your freshman year. Do not bother to pretend to behave in another way that is not your own, embrace your culture and origins, and believe in yourself. We all go through the same thing and all students are going to be nervous on their first days, just like you. Be open to get out of your comfort to meet new people, which is the best part of college! Do not be just a number, and be a true student: someone who seeks for new things to learn, who wants to make an impact in his/her community, and who desires to encourage people to succeed. To do so, get involved on campus; there are so many options to think of and for everyone. Even if you cannot find something you like, create your own club! As an international student, you are going to stand out, but remember that being different is a synonymous of being unique. You have finished a long application process and left so many things behind to come and study, so take advantage of everything you can.
Anything else you’d like to comment on?
Right now, I am living my dream. I never thought I was going to be able to study in the US with a scholarship, and here I am. I’ve had the best year of my life and unforgettable experiences and stories I love to share. With hard work and if you believe in yourself, you can actually accomplish any goal you set, as cheesy as it sounds. I encourage everyone to try to study in the United States, or at least learn about it and then decide if it is something for them.