Being an international student can be hard. You have the usual nonsense of long flights, leaving home, studying abroad, visas and other frustrating documents. But let’s be honest – you have been prepared for all this (somewhat). What you haven’t been prepared for, however, are the smaller (but nonetheless important) things: American lingo, no metric system, weird spellings. And believe me, these can all be a lot harder to handle.
This post catalogues some of my experiences as an international student that you might (or might not) relate to. Either way, I hope you’ll be left amused.
1. (Not so) fun CS projects.
Before coming to Brown, I though taking a CS course might be fun. I was wrong. CS15 did not involve fun. It involved struggles. It involved long TA lines. It involved relocating from my dorm to the CIT. One particular assignment, namely Litebrite, involved a fair amount of frustration. I remember how for the longest time, my code for this project simply refused to compile. I spent ages – hours, days – (it felt like years) – trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Frustration levels peaked when I realised my ‘error’ was spelling “colour” with a “u”, when it had been spelt without a ‘u’ in the support code.
Side note: CS15 was dropped soon after. (On the bright side, I did earn practically 10 hours of my time back. Per day.)
2. Awkward Conversations Ft. American Lingo:
i) Scenes at Best-Buy:
Me: “Hi, I’m looking for a torch.”
Me: “A torch.”
*exchange continues for a good 30 seconds*
Salesman: “Ohhh, you mean a flashlight…”
ii) Cross cultural fascination
Friend 1: Do you really call the bathroom the “loo”?
Me: Sometimes, yeah.
Friend 2: And the trash-can a *bin*???
Me: Oh, haha, yeah. *cue awkward laughter*
Friend 3: And spell ‘hono(u)r’ with a ‘u’!?
Me: Um. Yes.
iii) Weird small talk
I learned in my first two weeks that the go-to question to ask every freshman is “what are you considering concentrating in?” However, I must warn you, even this seemingly innocent conversation starter can have some awkward repercussions.
Random person trying to engage in small-talk: “So, what do you think you’re going to concentrate in?”
Me: “Well, I’m not sure – potentially Maths.”
Random person: “Oh, what’s that?”
Me (confused): “Maths?”
Random person: “Yeah..?”
Me (tries a louder voice): “Maths?”
*Louder voice does not help.*
Random person: “Sorry, I don’t know what this is.”
Me (last resort): “Uh, Mathematics?”
Random person: “Oh! Math! Sorry, I couldn’t understand because you pluralised it.” (PS: No, I’m not trying to make a point by using the ’s’ instead of a ‘z’ in ‘pluralised’.)
3. No metric system (sad face)
Okay, I’ll be frank. I can handle miles, inches, acres, feet. Occasionally, I can deal with yards. Sometimes even pints. (Yes, I know I’m picky – just deal with it.) But what I can not, simply can not handle, is the F-word. (Sure, call me conventional.) I will have you know that this insidious word has led to some serious misunderstandings. For instance:
Roommate: Woah, the weather’s mad today! It goes to like 38*!
Me (thinks 38* Celsius): Oh wow! That is really insane!
*Takes out a pair of shorts, sleeveless t-shirt, considers putting on sunscreen. (Roommate thinks I’m crazy.)
*Leaves the room.
*Rushes back in.
(Roommate thinks I’m crazier.)