Across campus, one group of students perhaps do not get the recognition that they deserve: the Hardin-Simmons University International Student.
Although there are many reasons that this may be, it is important for everyone to understand these students and how blessed HSU is to have them on campus. Many would agree that international students go through many obstacles to get an education here, but most people may not understand the extent of their educational journeys.
Zoey Abigail, Doreen Parit, Mijia Li and Kayurs Sah are four international students at HSU who each mentioned homesickness as being one of the hardest struggles that comes with being an international student. Most of these students have not been home since 2019, before the pandemic hit. Although they each struggle with homesickness, they have found ways to cope with being far from their family.
“Sometimes I think what if I could go home right now?” said Kayurs Sah, a senior mathematics and economics major from Nepal. “When I am truly homesick, I try to be more practical and remind myself that I made this choice for a reason. I try to motivate myself and get my mind off of that pain by going out and hanging out with friends or going for a walk or sitting by the pond. Talking to friends and family back home helps, too.”
Mijia Li, a junior accounting major from China, said, “I would suggest that new [international] students find friends and communities here (especially with other international students, because they know better than domestic students what you are experiencing). Having a family here really helps.”
Grey Hoff, associate vice president of Global Engagement, is passionate about this topic, encouraging the students from America to connect with our international students.
“If you could imagine flying to a place you don’t know in one of the most stressful times of your life--that’s what an international student goes through,” Hoff said.
If it is so difficult and challenging, why would these international students choose to leave their home to come to Hardin-Simmons?
“I came to study,” said Doreen Parit, a freshman business administration major from Kenya. “I like how America is open to everything. There are so many opportunities--it’s crazy.”
“It is very fun, exciting, challenging, and rewarding,” Mijia Li said. “People here, especially those at HSU, have shown lots of love, passion and care for the international student.”
Kayurs Sah shared that he never actually planned to attend HSU--it was a last minute decision.
“I was scared to come, but I was motivated,” Sah said. “I didn’t know what might happen, but I knew that whatever might happen I could deal with it . . . I would not be the same if I had stayed back home. I have learned how to be capable, and I have learned what I can do.”
While HSU has proven to be a wonderful second-home to these students, there still remains a gap between the relationships of domestic and international students that needs to be closed. For example, many international students state that it is often difficult to find close friends that are not international students.
“It’s easier to make friends with international students,” said Zoey Abigail, a senior art major from Indonesia. “They don’t feel like we are outsiders, because we are all outsiders, and a lot of domestic students feel like we are separate from them.”
Hoff believes that it is important for American students to connect with international students because personal connection and relationships are what our school is founded upon. James B. Simmons always said that this place was meant to touch the nations and to have international involvement.
“International students are just walking miracles,” Hoff said. “You get to see a bigger picture of God when you bring different countries together . . . There aren't Christian universities like this around the world, and they are willing to go through all of that to go here. What would you do if someone you didn’t know came to your home? You would greet them, give them water, and make them feel comfortable. As Americans, this is our home. Let’s make our international students comfortable in our home. I want our American students to keep running toward getting to know them. With the stresses that they bring, I think we should help and support this group.”
Even further, Hoff believes that we should invest in these students, because they could become leaders when they go back home because of the education that they have worked hard for.
For the international students, Mijia Li gives some advice: “Don’t hesitate to reach out. The staff and professors here really care about students. I know that in many students’ home countries (including mine), professors/teachers are considered authorities, standing high and away from the students, so it can be hard for some international students to get used to this new classroom culture. However, you can’t imagine what a huge loss it can be to die with your problems and not to let anybody know.”
For domestic students, it is time to close the gap between domestic and international students. Reach out. Connect with students that may be different from you and help them know that they are never alone.
As Kayurs said, “I motivate myself by saying that I am not alone in this. Yes, I miss home, but so do other international students. We are all in this together.”