Life as an international student at USM

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Getting adjusted to new schedules, living arrangements and professors presents students with a challenge at the start of every passing year.

The struggles of student life prove even more challenging for a student thousands of miles away from home.For three international students, they have experienced a quite literal warm welcome to America and college life. While coming prepared for cultural shock, the most difficult feat to overcome for the three was the intense Mississippi heat.

“When I got off the plane, my hair went poof. I thought it was maybe the air conditioner from the airplane, but it was just the humidity.” –  Beatriz Rodriguez, an exchange student from Spain.

Shannon Jones, an exchange student from England and who attended a university in Wales, has similar objections to the weather.

“(If my home country experienced this) kind of weather, you’d have health warnings. Like ‘keep your blinds closed, check out for elderly people,’” Jones said. Along with the weather, they also have had to make adjustments in American classes.

Jones majors in American Studies, which emphasizes American history, politics and literature. She particularly enjoys the South. “I wanted to go to a university in the South. I just like the history and culture in the South—there’s a lot to it,” Jones said. “It’s quite intricate and complicated.”

She has found that her classes require more physical work than those she is used to taking in the U.K. She plans to study at The University of Southern Mississippi for a year, so she joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

There are no Greek Life opportunities for her in the U.K., so this was a chance to do something she would otherwise not get the chance to do. After spending a year abroad in Germany, Rodriguez decided she wanted to spend some time in an English-speaking country for a semester.

Not wanting to go to Erasmus, the European opportunity for study abroad, she came to America for the first time.

She studies economics and international business. For Rodriguez, having such large classes makes her feel disconnected from her professors as opposed to her classes in Spain. She makes up for this disconnect with the relationships she makes outside of the classroom.

“I like to talk a lot, and the people here are like, ‘You’re not from here; tell me about where you’re from,’” Rodriguez said. “I like that they seem interested.” Like most incoming freshmen, German student Rebecca Lietz, a psychology major, faces the challenges of making friends, beginning college courses and living on her own for the first time.

Unlike Jones and Rodriguez, Lietz was prepared for the heat after spending a year at an Arkansas high school as an exchange student. Her previous year abroad led her to the decision to receive her bachelor’s degree from a college in America.

“So far I’m learning (things) similar to what I learned in high school in Germany,” Lietz said.Though all of the girls have had different experiences so far, they all agree that the friendliness of the people is something not found in Europe. “People are even friendlier than in Arkansas, which I wouldn’t have thought (was) possible,” Lietz said. Their time at Southern Miss will allow them to experience even more cultural differences.

For more information on how you can participate in an exchange program visit www.usm.edu/study-abroad.