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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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International and foreign exchange students discuss moving thousands of miles from home

Students came to the U.S. for the American college lifestyle, escape and new experiences

<p>International Student Services provides support for international students at UB.&nbsp;</p>

International Student Services provides support for international students at UB. 

Students from across the globe come to live the American college life. They come from different cultures, have no nearby family and often face a great language divide. Do they experience UB in the same way that American students do?  

UB educates students from 101 countries across six continents. International students make up 4,463 those enrolled, which is 14.5% of UB’s total student population. UB has over 30 international student clubs. 

In order to attend UB, international students must take English proficiency exams like the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), write motivational essays and sometimes even complete screening interviews. This process helps admissions officers learn about an applicant’s background, goals, interests and qualifications.

Getting a student visa to enter the U.S. is a notoriously rigorous and lengthy process. Because of this, some applicants apply and submit their forms months in advance to avoid immigration issues.  

While some international students reported an increase in their tuition during their study abroad at UB, Zoar Shachar, an Israeli-Dutch study abroad student from Amsterdam, shared that he pays the same tuition here as he would if he were back home, or about $2,700. 

“It was an opportunity to go to a U.S. school and not pay the stupid high tuition,” Schachar said. 

Certain applicants enrolled in special university or high school programs — sometimes in other countries — with the purpose of coming to America. Korean-Malaysian sophomore computer science student Alex Kim participated in one called an “American degree transfer program.” 

“So what we would do there is build up our credits in the college, and when we finally have enough, we can start applying to [foreign] universities,” Kim said. 

Others made the move to get out of more authoritarian countries. Freshman Alexis Qiao  came to UB to escape the tightened restrictions Chinese media censorship places on her as a theater major.

“We can’t say anything,” Qiao said. “If you post anything that’s kind of sensible or sensitive online, your account will just be suddenly banned, especially [if it’s] about the government. It’s hugely affecting the art environment.”   

International students must also learn to adapt to the American style of life. Many of them said they were taken aback by the relatively frequent and nonchalant use of drugs, the broad range of fashion sense and American holidays.

“I did not think Halloween would be such a big thing,” IT and management major Kartik Vishwasrao, a student from India, said. “I saw it in the movies and whatnot, but I thought, you know, it would be a bit more relaxed.”  

Stereotypes in other countries often depict Americans as loud and outgoing people. Experiencing this for the first time caught Korean junior psychology major Lily Song by surprise.

“At first, I wasn’t really used to the small talk, so if people asked me in the elevator, ‘How was your day?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, it was great,’ and that was all,” Song said while laughing.

Some international students said language barriers, including their classmate’s fast-paced English, made it hard to make friends with students from the U.S. Those barriers and being thousands of miles away from home can make life for international students difficult, but they’ve managed to step up to the challenge.

“I’m here for six months, and I think rather than missing home I will enjoy my life,” Song said with a smile. “But I do miss the food.” 

The features desk can be reached at


Ferdinand Babiano is a contributing writer. 



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