A Home Abroad

Growing up, I always tended to focus on things beyond my little corner of the world. I wanted to learn about other countries and cultures, not my own. As I’ve transitioned into college, I’ve been able to turn my attention to practical applications of that longing, such as study abroad. However, I think it’s very healthy to, occasionally at least, turn my attention back to my own country. Just the other day, I had that opportunity thanks to my OU Cousin.

I’ve mentioned the OU Cousins program before. Basically, every semester I am paired with an international student so that we can get to know each other and learn from one another. My cousin from last semester had to leave over the break and is back home in China. This semester, my cousin is a girl named Sheila from Angola. Sheila is also a freshman and will not be returning home until after graduation, so she and I may have the opportunity to continue on as cousins for the remainder of our time at OU. Anyway, Sheila and I were eating dinner together the other day, and she was telling me about the frustration she’s had trying to get her driver’s license. As she was explaining her various problems, I realized that the process of getting a driver’s license is actually incredibly difficult for an international college student. Not only does the serious lack of driving in college lead to very few opportunities to practice, but the system of working with a licensed adult when learning does not work well when your family and friends are all in another country. How is my cousin supposed to practice driving here? Besides that, she is currently enrolled in a required class about OU and the various help options OU offers its students. I didn’t have to take that class. The information was on my class syllabi and is posted across campus. I know she appreciates the existence of the options and the university’s dedication in making sure people are aware of them. However, is a required course really the best option?

I’m beginning to ask so many questions like these. I’ve never thought about what it would be like to be an international student in the US. In some ways, I’m sure it would be great. But there are also a lot of issues that would make it really hard. Now I’m starting to think about what it will be like to be an international student in Japan, where I plan to study in a couple years. I’m sure it will be hard, but I’m also excited. The whole world waits. I just need to remember to engage with the world I’m already in as well.

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