Yumi Fujisawa from Japan studying at the University of South Florida is one of the finalists for ISV Magazine summer scholarship! She shares several things international students must adapt to in American culture and the struggle of paying tuition in the States.
Studying abroad sounds fascinating; however successful foreign study is full of challenges and tears.
The first thing an international student must face is a huge cultural gap, which takes a great amount of time to adjust oneself to. American culture is very open and very individualistic. Although American culture is widely advertised across the sea, once international students immerse themselves in American culture, it suddenly turns out to be awkward and uncomfortable for them. As they try to be an American and try to act as an American, many things conflict to what they believe and how they behave.
For example, American students wear revealing clothes like see-through T-shirts with tiny jeans which show half of the butt to school. Also, I was very shocked when American students munch snacks shamelessly in a quiet classroom while a professor is giving a lecture. I had a hard time overcoming my own cultural view that Americans have no shame of showing skin too much and being so rude because they act only in their self-interest. In my culture I was always taught to respect others by behaving my best according to the situation and dressing nicely with proper fashion items to represent that I am decently fit in society. Rather than criticizing how Americans behave and dress, I just needed to accept the way they are because this is how they grew up under the influence of American culture.
Another big struggle for an international student is paying for school. All international students must pay out-of-state fees which cost two to three times more than in-state tuition. In addition to that, all international students are required to purchase very expensive annual health insurance from school which does not cover clinic visits and prescriptions. While tuition and insurance cost nearly $8,000 to $10,000 per semester, most international students are subjected to unemployment due to limited hours of work per week and the restriction of places they can be employed. Even though they luckily find employment on campus, the wage is not enough to keep up with everyday expenses, such as buying food, personal items, housing, and costly tuition. With those financial challenges combined with no financial aid for international students, international students must be well prepared financially to avoid living miserably in the USA.
Lastly, it is depending on how much effort one puts in, but language barriers definitely play a big role when it comes to the academic setting. The majority of international students speak English as a second language, and most of them have strong accents which obscures communication with native speakers. Moreover, our vocabulary is very poor compared to those who were born in the USA, and sometimes we international students do not understand what native speakers are talking about because of the language barriers.
Another big language barrier for international students is interpretation of the words he or she knows in his or her own language but unable to find matching words or just simply don’t know how to input these words in English. There are only a few Americans who will patiently listen to our English-like language because we stutter a lot and take longer to speak one sentence. Unfortunately, most Americans show irritation for not understanding what we want to deliver or look annoyed because we international students cannot pronounce certain words and communicate flawlessly. It is really sad that some Americans are unwilling to understand our communication struggles because we international students try our best to interpret what we are thinking or what we want to share by using our limited vocabulary.
My biggest personal challenge is to pay off tuition each semester without help from my parents and stand on my own feet while still learning English. When I came to the USA six years ago, I didn’t know how to speak and write any English. As it was mentioned before, it is really hard, more than you think, to pay out of state tuition every four months without any type of financial aid and loan available for international students. There are a few scholarships available for international students, but the amount is very small so that none of them covers enough to keep up with the expensive investment for school. The international scholarship I got from the current University doesn’t even cover the books I purchase for a semester. I was lucky enough to find employment on campus, but the company’s benefit is very biased towards Americans. We international students get only 8 to 10 hours per week with minimum wage while Americans get up to 40 hours per week. However, in order to keep my life at a comfortable level, I have to appreciate that I am employed here in the USA and work as many hours as possible within this limit. Although I struggle a lot financially, I’ve been trying my best to manage my school work and employment so that when I apply to graduate schools, I will stand out among hundreds of applicants.
Receiving $750 from the ISV magazine scholarship will be very helpful for me to continue my hard work and work less hours to concentrate on my studies. With this scholarship, I can be released from the stress of worrying about paying for schools, and those worries will not be able to interfere while I study. It is hard to focus when you have worries about how to pay for schools, textbooks, and related materials during the academic year, but with this scholarship, my worries will be wiped out. It is very important to keep up with my coursework with a healthy mind and achieve my best because grades affect my GPA.
My goal is to earn a Master degree or a Doctorate degree in Biotechnology, and a high GPA makes me a better candidate when I apply to graduate schools. Also, having a higher GPA gives me more opportunities to get into better schools. I really want to be successful by entering competitive schools to expand my values and knowledge. Applying to graduate school also costs money, and the fee is different for domestic students and international students. Although I do not appreciate the false belief of “international students are well off,” paying several hundreds dollars of international fees for multiple graduate schools is unavoidable to increase the chance of entering competitive graduate schools. If I could win this scholarship, I can wipe out concerns of limiting the graduate schools before I apply based on their fees, which I pay out of my own pocket! Well-known schools like Purdue ask more fees than state universities, but if I know that I have a scholarship with me, then I can apply to well-known and competitive schools without worrying about the cost for continuing education here in the USA. Then I can utilize the rest of this scholarship wisely to finish up my last semester at my current University.
Even though studying in the USA is full of challenges, the USA offers very good education for international students who are passionate to be more knowledgeable and expand their opportunities to be successful beyond one country. In the future, once I become financially stable, I would like to take my turn to help out other international students like me because I know what they go through. I found that it is very kind that you offer a scholarship to international students because not everyone is “well-off’. I wish to spread this kindness after achieving my goal. In order to achieve my goal, I would like to request help from you, the International Student Voice Magazine.