The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

My struggles as an international student

Illustration by Kae Takazawa

My journey as an international student began in August 2022.

I arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 from Japan after a 12-hour flight, to pursue my academic goals here in California.

I had mixed emotions.

I was excited about my first semester at El Camino College, but also anxious about my new environment I would have to adapt to because I had no one to depend on.

I had already experienced studying abroad three times so I thought the anxiety would disappear eventually and I would begin to manage, somehow.

Since I’m the only one in my family to go to college and study in another country, I continued to tell myself that I have to be perfect for my family.

During my first semester, I often struggled to express my thoughts in English and ended up crying sometimes after classes, feeling the pressure to catch up with the local students’ level.

Beyond my speaking skills I was also struggling financially.

International students like myself are given an F1 Visa, which is a visa for foreigners who want to study in the United States. Those on with a F1 Visa are required to pay tuition and insurance fees.

According to El Camino’s website, non-resident students have to pay $296 per unit and those with F1 Visa have to pay $707.58 for insurance, while students who reside here pay only $46 per unit for enrollment fee.

In addition to these expenses, I had to pay $1,050 per month for homestay and this caused a huge financial burden on me which increased my stress.

This made me suffer from an intense skin condition causing itching and rashes all over my body.

I wish I could’ve received more support when I was going through such a tough time.

I finally needed someone to help me, so I decided to give my mother a call after months of not being in touch.

Following a medical emergency I had, I then decided to return to Japan for a month for rest and spend time with my family.

After some time in Japan I got back to California, ready for a new semester.

During Spring semester 2023 I was able to experience a newfound level of comfort in college, because this semester I began to involve myself with the journalism program.

Asked by my professor, Kate McLaughlin, I joined The Union as an illustrator for Warrior Life magazine and The Union newspaper.

As I became more involved in a new community with students whom I can share anything with I began to notice an improvement in my speaking ability, which I was not confident in before.

I began to enjoy my college life a lot more with the friends I met in the program, unlike the hard days I endured in the beginning of my transition.

However, I know that I’m not the only international student who faced simaler problems.

From my experience, there is a need for more on campus support and resources for international students.

Whether that support is financial, emotional or simply moral the help would be a big boost for international students and could help us be more involved in our college community.

Like I have become.

I had to overcome the struggles of being an international student by finally being a part of a team.

I wouldn’t want to see anyone encounter the same obstacles I did.

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