My name is Brenda Carrada, and I am a junior majoring in communication arts with a concentration in public relations and advertising. As an international student, everything was so new for me. Ever since middle school, I knew I wanted to continue my tennis career into college. During high school, I was a part of different exchange programs in Canada and England. Knowing how much I love to travel, my parents started to bring up the idea of studying abroad. I wanted a new experience and they encouraged that idea. I thought that studying in the United States would be a great opportunity to keep playing tennis, while improving my English and experiencing personal growth.
The tennis coach at Spring Hill College contacted me and I eventually got my acceptance letter. I was frightened and excited at the same time. I was scared that I wouldn’t make friends in class, and that I would not be prepared for this new experience. So, my family and I decided to do a road trip from Mexico City to Mobile. That road trip was one of the best and toughest trips I have ever been on. Once I got to Mobile, I started to regret studying abroad and leaving my family. The Mexican culture is very family-oriented, so that’s why it was so hard for me to say goodbye. I remember seeing other freshmen being all excited for college while I was so scared and nervous for this new experience. As much as I aspired to study abroad, it was particularly difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone during my first few months in school.
It wasn’t until the latter half of my freshman year that I became more comfortable with the whole studying-abroad experience. It turned out that it wasn’t too hard to make friends. Things started to change when I finally loosened up. I started to meet the most amazing people from various places around the world. Other than the comforting feeling of knowing there were international students equally or more terrified than me, I learned that everyone was just as nervous and eager as me to make new friends! Now, I am happy to say that every part of my freshman year was memorable and rewarding. I learned about the school, the country, the culture and the people. I have no regrets.
Energetic school spirit is a large part of the SHC experience. Back in Mexico, we never really had a big thing for college sports. School spirit, nor rivalries, were intense. My freshman year, when I first got to feel the lively school spirit, I was stunned and exhilarated. You could say it was a bit of a culture shock, but I got to learn about basketball games, the fight song and so much more. As a freshman, I grew to be as proud of my school as my fellow Badgers, and I truly became a part of this community. Not every college in the U.S. is able to establish this kind of special bond.
According to an article by the International Student, there are 1 million students who have chosen to broaden their education and life experiences in the United States. Nearly 5 percent of all students enrolled in higher-level education in the U.S. are international students, and the numbers are still growing. So, don’t feel alone, keep in mind that there are other international students across the country who similarly share your feelings and life experiences.
Reflecting on my own experiences, I’ve realized it was never too frightening. It was simply a process of settling, adjusting and eventually feeling comfortable again.