Week Six of our Diablog: which of the following have posed the greatest challenge to you in making the transition to college?

alesnick's picture


Rae Hamilton's picture

My other

For me the hardest part has been trying to remember why I am here. Once you reach the goal of getting to college, you are suddenly free-falling-- with no direction. In every class I am asking myself, is it worth it? Why am I here? I should be out "living my life" instead sitting in a class I don't even want to be in. 

alesnick's picture

"Whatever you live . . . "

The experience of a split between school and "real life" is a deep problem for formal education/academia.  Why do you think school doesn't always feel "real?" 

In this connection, I have always liked this quote, of Robert Penn Warren:

"The time has come to hand me down my walking cane

for I've got to catch the midnight train

for all my sin in taken away

for whatever you live is life."

j.nahig's picture

My Other

The greatest challenge I have had in transitioning to college has been having to face the fact that while going through the college process I lost the sense of purpose and passion, and that I no longer have a goal on the horizon to steer towards. The following (probably unnecessarily) extensive anecdote serves as a background to help understand what I mean by the loss I have experienced since going to college. If you’d like to skip it, that’s fine. I just wanted to write it out to help clarify my point.

In the environment in which I grew up it went without saying that you were going to attend college. The only question was where you would go. In many peoples’ opinions, your schoolwork and extracurricular activities determined that. In freshman and sophomore year of high school, I inwardly rolled my eyes at my peers who I knew were only doing activities such as writing for the student newspaper and running for student government because they wanted to put them on their college application. When I reached my junior year and began to get a feeling of the competition I was up against for the schools I wanted to go to, however, I started panicking. Thoughts such as: why have I been so centered on what I want to do, and not thought about what will look good on a sheet of paper; What actually sets me apart from the people with whom I am competing; Why didn’t I get a better grade in that class; kept me awake at night. I suddenly felt like I had become just one more statistic. Junior and senior year were devoted to the college search and process. I set aside the bigger dreams and passions about what I wanted to do with my life (in fact, I was specifically told never to use the word ‘passion’ on a college application essay) and concentrated on academia. I stopped participating in activities I truly enjoyed if they took up the time I could be spending on things that might help me get into a college I wanted to go to. Admittedly, many of these feelings probably came as a result of the cooker-pressure nature of my private school, where excellence was the norm and anything less than exceptional was unacceptable, but I am sure that many people that went through and are currently going through the college process can relate, no matter where they came from.

Having been accepted into a college, I share the generic goals of other students in that I want to get my B.A. and then find job, but at the same time, I want to do things I love and pursue a career path in something that really interests me. Coming to Bryn Mawr, I realized that my academic anxiety has completely consumed me for the past few years. It is almost as though I’ve been hurtling towards the goal of sitting in a dorm room and studying for so long that I’ve forgotten life continues once you’ve achieved that. Instead of sitting in my room studying with a sense of pride and satisfaction, I feel a sense of confusion and loss. Hopefully within the next few semesters I’ll regain this sense of passion and purpose that I was advised to suppress in my last few years of high school.

I’d like to end with the following disclaimer:

I realize my story is only possible due to my privileged upbringing. I attended a private school, and did not have to worry about tuition when deciding what college to go to. In addition, I had the luxury of being able to do activities such as piano lessons and ice hockey if I so chose to. I also will not have to worry as much as others about finding a high paying job after leaving college, and have the privilege to explore careers to the point that I am able to settle in one that gives me a sense of fulfillment. I know few people are this lucky, and so it goes without saying that, in many ways, my sense of confusion is fairly trivial in comparison to the challenges other people face.

Rae Hamilton's picture

I get it...

I totally I understand and see where your coming from. I too have really lost my dierction while being here. 

S. Yaeger's picture

I think we all share a sense

I think we all share a sense of confusion here.  It's not trivial at all.  

Serendip Visitor's picture

leaving home

i think leaving home is do easiest thing to do because you will see them every other day and holiday. and you they love you

S. Yaeger's picture

The thing is that a lot of

The thing is that a lot of the students here had to leave their countries to come here.  I think that's probably a little more difficult.

Serendip Visitor's picture

So True

I agree with this comment because i do think leaving home is the easiest thing to do. Plus you won't be under your parents control, you can finally do what you wanna do but still always make the right choices

Serendip Visitor's picture

I will not have a problem leaving home

The problem that I will not have is leaving home because I'm only close with a few people here and I want to explore and be in a different state maybe even country for college.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I think that it is hard to

I think that it is hard to pay for college. Especially if you don't have the money like that, and you need loans.

lijia577's picture


I did have a hard time to make the transition to college as an international student. When looking back, I found those thoughts and experience really meaningful to me. And at this special moment, I actually can feel the bond between me and little Bee. Even though my story was not so tough, the hidden emotion is connected in a subtle way. Both of us don't need to think about the problem of exclusiveness since we just not belong to the country.

At the very beginning of the semester, while we have talking about exclusiveness and the most uncomfortable space on campus, honestly, sometimes I think about that I am the unfortunate person there since this is not the country I grow up. Meanwhile, when I can make connections between those two different culture and make an interesting comparison and contrast. I know that most of my peers just don't have the same context. Those thoughts are permissive especially when I am upset, which remind me of the different assimilated stages in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves: Stories. IT's not the problem of nostalgia. I study hard and I am unhappy. I know it's not me. The transition comes after fall break. So I drop a class and start to get evolved in this community. Then, I decide to do attribute a portion of my time to do things beyond academic work, joining clubs, doing performance and volunteering both on-campus and off-campus.

So I feel better now, even out of my expectation. And I start to ponder the role of interaction within one community and the society. College is a place where the boundary can be really blurring and easy to cross.

meggiekate's picture


            My greatest challenge is making my transition to college was just getting back into the routine of classes and homework after taking a year off school and anything academically related. I was so excited to start back up again, but once I got here I discovered that my brain was very smushy. It was like starting to physically exercise after not exercising for a year. Also, in middle and high school I lived about an hour away from my school and almost all of my friends. This meant that once I got home, all I had was myself to distract me from my work. Here, my friends live right across the hall or only a few minutes walk away. It’s so easy to just pop over to say a quick hi and end up talking and hanging out for an hour.

            At the same time, making new relationships was also difficult. Starting college is a new start in many ways, which can be amazing because you have the opportunity to get away from old grudges, enemies, and friends who can be confining and define you by what you were like in the past. But I also think that those who have known you for a long time can be grounding and comforting. It’s also been very difficult being so far away from everything familiar (not exactly “home,” but more familiarity). The newness of everything gives me some discomfort and has made me doubt myself, whereas I feel if I had stayed closer to home I would have felt more comfortable and perhaps my transition would have been easier.

Serendip Visitor's picture

i agree it is difficult to

i agree it is difficult to start fresh but i never really had difficulty being on my own or making new friends its second nature to me.

Serendip Visitor's picture

James Durham

I never knew making friends was that hard especially in college. Overall I think moving away from family and friends I think is a good thing because when you are not on campus you can't always focus. You have deal with friends a lot and go to family business and not focus on your education.

MVW1993's picture

For me, moving so far away

For me, moving so far away from home has been one of the most challenging aspects of transitioning into college. I am an only child from Wisconsin, so moving to Pennsylvania has been challenging in that I am now a little over 1000 miles from the beautifully snowy and wonderfully chilly city I call home. I also admit that I have a bit of “only child syndrome” and I’m having a difficult time adjusting into not being so reliant on my parents. My decision to move so far away, ironically, spawned from the reasons I now miss home so much. I wanted independence, to have a sense of self-reliance, and to have some distance from my ever-loving parents (avoiding the negative 10 degree Fahrenheit winter weather was an added bonus). But now that I’m really here, I miss my parents dearly and I long for those snowy and bitterly cold winter days.

Ultimately though, I know that this experience is really good for me. I feel like I have, in fact, become more self-reliant and I definitely feel that I have asserted my independence. Being so far away, though difficult, has allowed me to explore myself more and to get a better sense of who I am. I am so grateful for the experiences that I am being offered here at Bryn Mawr, despite the challenges of missing home, because I know that these experiences are making me so much stronger as an individual.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I totally agree with you

I totally agree with you about the whole moving away thing. We have a lot in common I'm also an only child with a fear of moving far away from my parents. But just as you said this maybe a good experience for you and also for me to.

snatarajan's picture

College: A home away from home... or a replacement home?

Leaving home has been the hardest aspect of transitioning to college for me for many reasons, many of which I never forsaw, but have popped up over the course the semester.

I have always been really close to my mom, and over the years I feel like our relationship has actually become a bond mirroring that of a best friend. And in a way, moving away from home and into college has sometimes put strains on this relationship. At the beginning of the semester, I called every chance I had to talk to her, and basically keep her up-to-date with every minor detail of my life at Bryn Mawr. As time passed however, and work began to catch on, and I began to make many friends in classes, around campus, and in the dorm, I felt like I was calling less and less often. I felt like work at college was overtaking my ability and time to talk to my mom. Obviously, our relationship felt a little bit different, as though we had too much to catch up on whenever we did talk and I guess we just decided to stick to simple conversations.

Aside from this, it's been hard to be away because I come from a pretty big family, my immediate family of five and my grandparents from both sides. Like any family, there are problems thta go on at home: someone not passing his classes, someone who wants to be a freelance musician for a living when our parents see no future in that, someone who gets really sick and needs to go to the hospital. Whenever even the smallest thing happens at home, I feel like it is my responsibility to be there, to be of some help to fix that problem. Instead, I am sitting an hour and a half away-- close enough to feel like I need to go back and do something, but just far enough that I can't.

For these reasons, I feel like I've, in a way, become part of the Bryn Mawr bubble to the point of being so detached from the rest of my family. At the same time, though, I have come across so many moments when I wish I could just return home and help fix whatever is broken. In light of this, I hope that Bryn Mawr can comfortably be my home away from home, but that I never get so comfortable here that I feel a loosening tie to my family and home in New Jersey and a new tie to Bryn Mawr, in its place.

Serendip Visitor's picture

i can understand because

i can understand because coming into high school is like a second home so your meeting new people and leaving your original home to go to new home so it can be scary.

jrschwartz15's picture

Meeting New People

I voted for starting new relationships as my biggest college challenge. As an only child in both my family and my neighborhood and coming from a small high school, being comfortable amongst my peers is a relatively new experience for me. I had just settled into a strong group of friends back home towards the end of my junior year... just in time to begin college applications and shop for my graduation dress. My biggest anxiety over the summer was what would happen with my friends from home and finding new friends in college. As many freshman have experienced, this semester I have been in and out of friends/groups of friends and some friendships from home have faded without the everyday contact. This is all, however, is just part of college life. I am simply looking at my experiences as discovering my friends. While this faster-paced social environment is a lot for me to take in, I think it's healthy and I look forward to seeing how my life here as an Owl unfolds.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I choose this one because

I choose this one because meeting new people is not hard for me at all. I am really friendly and can make a friend in any second. I just hope once i get to college it wont change and i will still be able to make new friends. I think making friends is really important in life because when you go to college you not going to know anyone and you going to be living with someone you don't know so its good to have people skills and be friendly so everything can work out.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I agree with you 100 percent.

I agree with you 100 percent. Im not the only child but starting a new relationship with different people can be hard.

lissiem's picture

Choosing a college

Choosing Bryn Mawr was an extremely difficult decision for me.  During my senior year I was faced with two good options for schools, both of them seemed right in their own ways.  One of them came with a very large scholarship and a community that I was comfortable in (the college was the alma mater of every woman in my family), and the other was Bryn Mawr, which was appealing to because of its academic rigor and reputation.  I struggled for months trying to decide which was better, environment or academics.  Ultimately in the end my decision was almost made for me, based on something I was positive I wanted, to be independent and get away from home a little bit.  Ironically, my father was actually offered a job as a professor at the other school that was not Bryn Mawr, which he accepted. Because of his choice, I decided to go to Bryn Mawr.  In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best way to decide on such a big decision like college, but Bryn Mawr has offered me exactly what I wanted, independence and an excellent education.  

gfeliz's picture

I think that this was a very

I think that this was a very difficult question for me to answer because there were so many challenges in my transition to college. I think that ultimately my biggest challenges were deciding where I wanted to go to college and leaving my family, friends, and boyfriend behind. I was very undecided with what college I wanted to go to—to be quite honest, Bryn Mawr was not even in my top three choices. My family and friends were all convinced that I was going to stay down South for college (which is what I really wanted). I knew that I would be closer to my parents, the weather would be nice all year round, and I could still continue to play soccer and run track at amazingly athletic schools—but something just wasn’t right. I knew that ultimately I wanted academically rigorous institution and the schools that I was looking at down south didn’t fit all my expectations; I wanted to be challenged and I wanted to be on my own and make decisions for myself. Choosing Bryn Mawr was a very hard decision but a very good one at that. It was hard to leave the people that I loved the most but I knew that it would be worth it in the end. I think that what has been the most challenging is not having my parents here with me (in college) to reassure me, give me constant advice and support, help me make decisions, and to just be there for me when I need them. This is not to say that they aren’t always here for me but it’s just not the same when they aren’t physically around. I put this upon myself because I chose Bryn Mawr; I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see my family as often and I’m often really sad about it because I truly do miss them but at the same time I have developed so much independence within myself which has given me a lot of maturity and strength to be positive about my transition in college so far. 

Serendip Visitor's picture

I Agree

Ultimately, I believe that it would be the hardest thing to do because your relationships with family and friends makes your decision harder. At the end of the day it is your choice but its what you want and how you feel. Sometimes the choice may come down to what someone else's choice was.

melal's picture

Leaving Home

I choose leaving homeas my biggest challenge in making transition to college. Leaving home for me does not only mean move from a country to another country, but also means being more mature and introspective than most of my peers. Since my parents re far way in China, and they are not familiar with systems here in America, the help that can get from them is very limited. I stepped into a new world which I only have myself to rely on—I must make decisions and cope with everything by myself.  Looking back the past three months, I feel that I experienced the stages that Karen Russell wrote in her book St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. When I just arrived in America, everything was new and interesting for me. For the first time, strangers on the street smiled to me! It was interesting to start my new life in a totally different country. Then things became harder as I realized that I must work to adjust the new culture. Life was stressful a strong sense of dislocation took over me. Though now I’ve become more comfortable for my new environment, whenever I think about the fact that there are only several days left for going back home, I still get so excited.  I gradually realize that my home is always where my root is.

To tell the truth, before I really came to the States, living in a country that thousands of miles away from home, I never knew the taste of homesickness. I spent all of my past eighteen years in one city-- I am so familiar with everything in the city that I was almost tired of it. I determined to go to a different place that far away from home to get some fresh air and to explore the world.  But now, when I’m really in a foreign country that truly far away from home, I finally realize how much my home means to me. Jinan, is not only the name of a city, it is also a place that witnesses how all the things that make me who I am now happened. It’s where I can take a walk without worrying about getting lost; it’s where I’m not afraid of walking alone on empty streets at night; it’s where I can have a sense of belonging and secure. Through my experience in the past three months, I realize that how challenging living far away from home and how strong the connection between me and my home.

LittleItaly's picture

Old Habits

Honesty I don't feel like I struggled with the transition to college. I was so happy to leave my hometown for Bryn Mawr and I've always been reminded of life lessons by my father so going in a different direction as my friends seemed natural. Money is ALWAYS a transition I suppose unless someone has the means to pay full tuition. But the finances seem so distant, back in Battle Creek in my parents' hands. I'm not in that comfortable position where I know my education is paid off but I'm not that student who works endless hours to be able to help pay off tuition. I'm stuck in the middle.  Making friends was never fear either. And any college that came with prestige and got me out Michigan was fine with me. I'm explaining every choice because as I'm writing all this I'm also explaining this to myself. When I read the poll question...my mind went blank. I really could not relate to any of these choices and picking other (you define) made it even more undefinable... I guess the only transition that i saw difficult is highschool to college. I believe I fit in rather well with college atmosphere but at times I see myself as I was in highschool...always trying to cut corners. I guess I'm a contradiction because I'm a perfectionest as well as a procrastinator. I make projects aesthetically rich but behind the glitter the depth in which I go to study and research and understand is always last-minute and fast.  It got me several awards from back home, it got me friends, it got me to Bryn Mawr, but I believe later on I will find out I can't talk my way out of everything. I think that is my biggest challenge...ending old habits.

kganihanova's picture

New Relationships/Finances and Money

Coming to Bryn Mawr was weird coming from a small town like Annandale. That made adjusting to college and its changes e.g. finances and money and relationships. I have always been close to people due to the fact that I was from a small town but being at college is like that as well. It is different however in that, I must work around people's schedules- decidely busy schedules whereas back home there's not really much to do so everyone's free all the time. Finances and money changed as well because life is expensive! That probably sounds really naive but I hadn't realized before exactly how expensive it is. Having a job that supports me versus simply pays for my recreation is strange but awesome. Getting paychecks makes me happy because the money is all mine, all mine.

JHarmon's picture

Finances directing Passions

While I'm compelled to say “all of the above” as my answer to this poll, it's hard to deny that money is a huge factor in my transition to college—both because it was a determinant in why I am here and because it is still a determinant as to if I will stay here. Issues of money have permeated into areas like starting new relationships as well, so in a way, it still affects me daily.

My transition into college was largely based off of financial aid—all of the colleges but two I applied to were ruled out simply for being too expensive. Ultimately, the best financial option (Bryn Mawr, of course) won out. Now that I'm here, finances are still on my mind, even as a freshman. Reading headlines like “US student debt now surpasses credit card debt” have put an added pressure on my life. I feel stressed to choose the “right” major that will get me a high paying job in the long run.

I came to Bryn Mawr because of its philosophy that college isn't just a means to an end. We go here because we have a love of learning. However, it almost feels like a luxury, maybe a little classed, to choose a major like art history or music (majors without specific or high paying career paths attached to them). I know that when I graduate, I don't have the luxury of parents paying off my student loans. I'll be on my own in an unpredictable job market in a country where upward mobility and the “american dream” are usually unattainable, even if we don't want to believe it's true. For this reason, it's hard to realize the hopeful vision of coming to college to simply discover myself and my passions. For me, being career oriented isn't something that can wait—it has to be a factor in every decision I make here.  

HSBurke's picture

I chose "leaving home" for

I chose "leaving home" for this poll. Before arriving at BMC, one of the greatest appeals of college to me was escaping from high school. I left my high school friends on a bad note, and to me, nothing sounded better than meeting new, genuine, people and Bryn Mawr and cutting off past ties all but completely. However, in my haste to run away from THS and everyone there, I neglected to realize how much of an effect leaving home would have on me. In high school, home was my safety zone, and a lot of the time, my parents and sister were the only people I felt like I could trust. Thankfully, I found what I was looking for at Bryn Mawr. Now that I have a supportive group of friends, I find myself needing a safety zone less and less, which luckily works out now that my family is about 2,700 miles away. However, the bond that I formed during those tough times hasn't been broken, and I find myself missing the comforts I left behind. I love Bryn Mawr, but it's not quite home. And while I try not to be constantly missing California, there's alway something in the back of my mind that's counting down the days until next break. 

Serendip Visitor's picture

I agree with this as well.

I agree with this as well. Its very hard to leave your family and friends. I feel like my home is also my comfort zone, I am still trying to figure out how am I going to manage in college but I think I will be fine as well.

Chandrea's picture

Biggest Challenge

I chose "leaving home" and "finances/money" as the most difficult challenges for me during my transition to college. My life revolved around my family before I started college. My mom's a single mother and I had to help her take care of my five younger siblings so it was kind of hard to avoid them on the daily. We're a really close family and it was very difficult for me at the beginning of the school year to adjust: to not wake up and see them running around or to not being able to eat my mom's food. When I went home for Thanksgiving break, it felt like I was a guest in the house. Things changed - my room didn't feel like my room, the daily routines were different, and for some odd reason, I didn't feel like I belonged. Of course I know my family missed me and they didn't shun me but I think I'm struggling to get to used to coming home after living away from home for months at a time.

It's also difficult to manage your finances while you're in college. Nobody warns you not to buy that sweater onliine - you learn how to manage your money the hard way. Like when you find out you have like, twenty bucks in the bank. And I know I am not the only one who has to deal with this. My friends and I have to check each other when we spend and we often joke about being in the "danger zone" with our bank accounts (when you have less than $100 in the bank). If I'm broke and need something, I can't really call my mom to lend me some cash, which is okay. My mom never readily whipped out cash for me in high school anyways so I understood the value of her hard-earned money, but it is a wake up call. I have to be accountable for my actions and learn how to restrain myself from buying ridiculous things. And I'm learning to pick up on extra shifts at work if I need the extra money. There's something really nice about getting paid from a hard week's' worth of work.

Serendip Visitor's picture

My Biggest Challenge

I agree with you completely my life revolved around my family and waking up in a new environment around new people can be a little weird. Im not used to eating different food and being with new people living with a complete and total stranger. Money is definitely a major thing because there are somethings i think i need but then theres nobody to be like well you don't need that or wait did you plan your week out before you buy that. It's just that I'm very dependent on my family and its hard being so distant.

S. Yaeger's picture


I picked "other" because the biggest challenge for me kind of encompasses all of the choices above.  As many of the Bryn Mawr students know, I am a non-traditional student.  This means that I'm older than a typical student and that there was some time between when I graduated high school and when I started college.  I am 32 years old and I started college at 29.  Prior to deciding to start college, I had a full time job, my own apartment and a typical "twenty-something" llifestyle. For me, deciding to let all of those things go was very difficult.  Returning to school meant that I would have to actually return home since I wouldn't be able to work enough to pay rent, let go of some of my relationships and friendships because some of them were not supportive of my decision, learn how to make friends with people who are almost young enough to be my kids, learn to live with a lot less money than I did when I worked two jobs, and I had to choose a school where I would be able to be myself.  

If I had to pick one of those things, I would pick ending relationships.  It's very dfficult to admit that many of my friends were not supportive of my decision and, when I first began to understand this, I was very sad.  However, once I got past my initial sadness, I ended up with a much greater appreciation for those who are still there for me, and for the new friends I have made.  I'm constantly surprised by how much I can fnd in common with people.

JHarmon's picture


S.Yaeger, I can totally relate to you and your experience with friend's who don't support your decision to be here. I'm from a school district where most graduates go to a community college or no college at all. The thought of going out of state or to a 4-year college just isn't possible for a lot of students. So, when I chose to leave upstate New York to come to Bryn Mawr, I knew that the relationship with a lot of my friends back home would change. My friends didn't actively disapprove, but I felt uncomfortable mentioning that I was going to a private, expensive, and elite college when many of my friends could not. It was weird because simply choosing to go to a "big name college" but a divide between some of my friends and I. I felt like I was abandoning where I came from, and I can't shake the feeling that my friends thought I was abandoning them for "bigger and better" things. I had no intention of creating this divide, and yes, it makes me sad. However, I'm grateful that I'm here, and like you, I've really come to appreciate the friends who've stood by me. 

nbnguyen's picture

start new relationships

I am surprised that so many people choose "start new relationships". At first, I think it is just the problems of minority students. However, now I recognize that it's the issue for many of us. To me, it's very hard to make friends with American students due to cultural and language barriers. Most students at Bryn Mawr are totally nice, but they feel bored to talk to me because we don't have things in common. Some Americans recognize that problem and they try hard to bridge the gap. They attempt to navigate the conversations to the topics I know. But some just don't bother spend time getting to know me. Some look at my circle of friends and they think that I'm odd. They just want to stay away from me so they don't look odd like me. That's because they have many choices of friends around. Several Chinese students also don't want to make friends with me because I don't speak their language. Some of them even think that I am not worth making friends with because I am the minority. The first time in my Japanese class, I sat between two Chinese girls. However, when the professor asked us to practice speaking Japanese, she just skipped me to talk to the Chinese girl, and it happens all the time. Some people are just indifferent and reckless with my heart for no reason. Sometimes at Bryn Mawr, I have the feeling of exclusion. However, I am glad that most girls at Bryn Mawr are nice and open-minded. I have some very close friends and many potential close friends. My friends  said that girls at Bryn Mawr are much better than other colleges. Until now, I am still glad to be a part of this college and I feel fortunate that I have many friends. And I will never give up to bridge the gap between me and American students as well as some international students from other cultures. I am really willing to learn from them, to explore the lives in different countries and understand how they think.

Serendip Visitor's picture

By starting a new

By starting a new relationship can help you grow as a person. All people are different but in some ways they can find something they both like.

melal's picture

Same feeling

Dear Nancy and Mfon,

After reading your experience with Chinese girls, I have a really complex feeling. On the one hand, I feel guilty and ashamed for what my peers did to you, on the other hand, I really want to say that in spite of the fact that almost half of the international students are Chinese, all the international students are actually appear as a minor group here on campus—the difficulties and feelings we have are identical in many ways. I don’t mean to explain anything for them to you, but I do want to write some of my feelings down as a Chinese girl.

It is true that when Chinese girls get together, we usually talk in Chinese a lot. For me, talking in mother language just simply makes me more comfortable and relaxed, but obviously it is not appropriate to talk in Chinese when there are other students from other countries on the spot. I totally understand how you feel being excluded about surrounded by a bunch of Chinese girls and listening them talk in a language that you completely don’t understand—it’s exactly what I feel when I surrounded by American girls and listen to them talk extremely fast about TV shows. But should I blame them for picking topics that I have no idea about and making me uneasy? Nope. Nobody should be blamed—cultural capital is something that we are born with and can never have choice. Having difficulties understanding language is an indicator of the gap between people with different cultural capitals. Things get worse when you are in minority, because your needs and feelings are more likely to be neglected. Within international students, you may feel being excluded by Chinese students; as international students, we are m“If you don’t speak English, then go home.” It’s kinda true in many ways. I have to admit that living in an environment that most people share different values is more difficult than I thought, sometimes I just feel I’m like an outsider. But I keep reminding myself that it is my own choice to study abroad, I need to be responsible for myself; I need to bear a series of outcomes following by my decision. I clearly know that if I want to get a job here in the States, then I need to work much harder than Americans to be qualified. I always believe that when I look back my experience as a foreign student one day, all the difficulties and challenges that I am facing right now will be a great great treasure for my entire life.

At last I just want to say that though we have many Chinese girls on campus, we are all from different provinces and cities. It still takes time for me to make friends with other Chinese girls because of different backgrounds. I hope these words can make you guys feel better. 


nbnguyen's picture

International students can't walk alone

Thank you Ellen for sharing your thought and your compassion with us. I really appreciate that. However, I don' t think you should be responsible for everything that happens to you. Because not all of them are your faults. If you try hard to make friends with someone, but they don't accept, they ignore or look down on you, it's obvious their faults. American and international students are all part of problems, they should be all aware of them and are all willing to fix that. Martin Luther King stated clearly in his speech that the struggle of black is strongly attched to the white. Black people can't struggle alone to be equal. They need someone like Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe all participated in the transformations. The same thing happens here. We all want to make effort to bridge the gap, but we need support and compassion from American students. If one day when your child grow up in an American school and she is excluded by her origin, will you ask a 6-year-old girl to be responsible? No, I think you will freak out. What I post in the forum try to make people in the campus aware of the issues we have and figure out the way to solve the problem.

Furthermore, as a community, I think no one should be all responsible for their lives when something is not their faults. Again, The struggle to be equal shouldn't come from one side. No one can be successful by being walking alone.The unprivileged shouldn't blame everything for their responsibility.The rich shouldn't ask the poor to be responsible for their poverty. It sounds like poverty is all their faults. Poverty in this case is considered a failure. As you know in our class, that's not the truth.

LJ's picture

I agree it is very difficult

I agree it is very difficult to bridge the gap between International and American students. Even though I am technically American I grew up overseas. It can be difficult because I don't always understand the pop culture references or I'm unfamiliar with a certain store or what have you. There have also been several times I've been talking about something back home and my friend informs me that they have no idea what I'm talking about.  I would agree that everybody has to meet somewhere in the middle. I believe it's human tendency to hang out with individuals that are like you; it just makes life more comfortable and less complicated. However, as Bryn Mawr women I think we are all capable of being a little uncomfortable in order to be friends with someone who has a different culture than our own. 

Serendip Visitor's picture

Yes, I have many close

Yes, I have many close friends who are Chinese, so the mean people who I describe are just a small part of Chinese community. I don't mean to criticize Chinese girls in general. My close friends always respect my presence and they do speak English when I am around. Furthermore, Ellen, you don't have to feel guilty because you do nothing wrong.

Utitofon's picture

In one of my classes, we had

In one of my classes, we had to form groups of 3/4 to make a presentation. I sat next to a chinese girl and we agreed to be in the same group. Then another chinese girl asked to join our group and after her, an American girl and  a third chinese girl asked to complete the number. Without thinking, i told the first chinese girl, lets take the American girl to add variety to our group, she looked at me and said nothing in reply, then resumed talking to her fellow chinese friends.  After a few akward minutes, i looked helplessly at the American girl and apologised for the embarassment. So the American girl got excluded, and I got ignored because we were in the minority in that particular situation. So i know what you are talking about. The racial clumping is even more glaring in the dining halls. That is why we gotta make this discussion a feature of customs week.

nbnguyen's picture

I want to delete the post I

I want to delete the post I wrote before but I don't know how. I think that I wrote above is to pessimistic and unfair. It just reflects a small part of Bryn Mawr education environment. I think I just focus on the dark side which is impartial. May be I wrote it when I was quite emotional. In fact, I see many friendly girls and I am quite close to my roommate who is also American. Furthermore, I should not blame all my problems for others' faults. Some international students like Mfon are quite successful at making friends with people from different national origins. Some problems may partly be my own responsibility. Of course, there are always some narrow-mided people everywhere, but I think I shouldn't care much about these people. I shouldn't make them let me down. I think sometimes I should focus more on love rather than hatred.

LittleItaly's picture

.Love without Hate, Apologies, & College Intervention.

Would love even exist if hate wasn't there to counterbalance it? Sides to stories, views, passions, aren't always motivated by love. Many things in society has changed because people were mad against the government. What you did was tell part of your story and you let us all in part of your life that you may think isn't so pretty. But I personally appreciate it and it just goes to show that this class has opened us up and made us comfortable to dicsuss such problems of racism, acceptance, class discrimination. While I am not an international student I bet many students reading your post will be able to connect with you just like Mfon did. What I would like to ask is are there anyways the College could do something? In the first week of customs I know my roommate, who is from China, and I never got to see each other because international students always had separate activities from the other students. Maybe more icebreakers in the beginning and throughout freshman year to promote relationships between international and non-internation, transfers, and McBrides, would help take down the divides you mention.

S. Yaeger's picture

I think more activities

I think more activities throughout the year is such a great idea.  I agree with everything you've written here.  Sometimes, it's the unhappy details that make it easier to connect to each other, but also just having time to get to know each other and get comfortable. 

Serendip Visitor's picture

I believe activities are a

I believe activities are a must for everyone, because it brings people together more & its a better way to discuss whatever we were talking or learning about.

Utitofon's picture

You are not alone

No Nancy, you were being honest with yourself. You do not have to delete the post. I can relate to what you are saying. Notice that I did not say, i made friends with everyone at orientation, i used the word some, because not all responded warmly to my attempts. You are not alone in your experiences. Part of what you described informed my paper on racial inclusion at Bryn Mawr. We can pass it off as instinctive to hang out with our fellow country men; Americans with Americans;Africans with Africans;Chinese with Chinese or based on our economic backgrounds, but that seemingly natural behavior is really reflexive of class bias - racial or economic. If we are truly convinced that 'all men are created equal' and if this class has had any positive effect on us, then our circle of friends(people we eat with, hang out with, go shopping or touring with) should consist of people from all races and backgrounds

phu's picture

Starting new relationships

I would say start new relationships is the hardest part for me though I found choosing a college is also a frustrating yet happy process(I gotta choose between a great big public school located in west and a great small private school located in east). Besides the fact that for a freshmen, college experience is equally new to everyone, I have an extra challange, I study and live in a new country. People around me now are different, including classmates, friends, teachers, etc. Culture aroung me is also different. What people think is also different. From environment to food, from ideas to customes, they are all different. But coming to a new country means to exposure yourself to new experiences. I think I've learned a lot during this process and I appreciated I chose to finish my undergraduate degree in America. Despite all the good news, I found that it's really hard there if there's no one who can really understand you from your point of view(more focused on the demographic and culture reasons why I think in this or in that way); you will feel isolate and lonely sometimes. The feeling is like you've losted your root/essence. I've experienced that kind of feeling for a few weeks, but luckily, I found some friends who can really understand me there(including both Americans and international students)! Being aboard all by myself, even though it's hard, but after I've went through this process, I will find all the things I've done and all the relationships I've had were built up all by myself. And thats the time to feel the feeling of accomplishment. Due to the language and culture affections, I've found it's more difficult to find good friends here in America than in China. Also I've noticed some Americans does not like to become friends with international students. So the choices of friends become less and plus there are certain culture differences that always exist between international students and domestic students, so the friends range become even smaller. I think that's why I found starting new relationships here are more difficult. But I believe as time goes by, I will get more used to the environment and have more friends:D

Utitofon's picture

My desire for inclusion

I chose starting new relationships because that was a source of apprehension for me as I prepared for my trip. I was used to having my phone ring 8 - 10 times a day, besides receiving several text messages. I enjoyed being  a 'local champion' and knowing that i featured prominently in the thoughts of others: my students and their parents, former teachers, former classmates, family friends, personal friends and neighbors. So i was afraid of becoming insignificant here. I knew I would have to make a conscious effort to cultivate and maintain new friendships. Therefore, on my very first Sunday, I got in touch with the local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses who welcomed me warmly and helped me move into my dorm. They became my host family - a large one at that and they check up on my weekly! Then during orientation week, I warmed up to a number of the students and made some good friends that i still hang out with. My roommate and I made sacrifices to accommodate each other and we get along very well. The motherly support of my dean also helped in my rapid adaptation. My fears went unfulfilled and after 3 months, I can happily say that I feel at home.

Michaela's picture

I had a similar feeling to

I had a similar feeling to this--in high school, I knew who my friends were and where the boundaries lay in terms of who I could feel comfortable with. I was very close to my family, especially my mom and sister, and so it has been hard to leave home, as well, knowing that I may not find connections that are as strong as those that I have with people from home. I thought about all of these fears in the weeks and months leading to move-in day. But when I finally got here and began to actually interact with my hallmates, classmates, etc, I have realized that just because we don't have a long-standing relationship doesn't mean we can't start one now. I still have days where I feel lonely, definitely, because I'm still working on being a great, close friend for my peers, and on fitting in in an entirely new environment. But I kind of love the challenge, because it means that I'm finally here, at Bryn Mawr, in this environment that I had been anticipating excitedly for so long--and that I'm working to forge a path here that reflects both who I am and who I am becoming, with the help of the Bryn Mawr community.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I agree with you. I have

I agree with you. I have friends and family members that i am extremely close to. To be honest, I don't know what I would do without them. Picturing myself leaving my home town and my loved ones behind is a huge challenge. I wouldn't have anyone to run to for advice or to answer my questions when i'm absolutely lost. Well of course besides making new associates. Im just lost for words at this moment. I think sometimes taking a challenge will leave a better effect on you later on down the road. When my time comes to take the challenge, I guess I'll just see it as sharing my awesome personality with the outside world.!