By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois
For most people, in particular international students, being away from home can be very painful and emotional.
You start missing just about everything: your friends, your room, and the food, especially the food! Even though America and other countries have different places to remind you of your culture and your home country, it’s still not enough to fully satisfy someone who is homesick. At CSI, we have a lot of students who come to study from far away. I spoke with one of our students from Nigeria and got some interesting facts about how he is adapting to the new culture, language, and food.
Leila: Do you like the weather here? I bet it’s cold for you because you came from a really warm country. How do you “fight” with the cold weather here?
Sean: Yeah, I would have to say, it’s cold for me, but I used to live in a colder region before. That was Ukraine. I stayed in Ukraine for about 5 years. Transitioning here wasn’t as difficult as my counterparts from tropical regions. My slogan is “If winter is coming – be prepared”.
Leila: Did you like studying in the Ukraine? Since it was your first experience being an international student, what was your impression?
Sean: Hmm, it was difficult adapting at first, but I joined local communities that I could relate with various African groups so it got easier with time. The weird thing about it was trying the local foods that I wasn’t used to.
Leila: How did you get used to Ukrainian food?
Sean: Yeah, I gradually got used to Ukrainian food, but I was saved by meeting my wife, who eventually cooked for me and she showed me how to order the African food I was craving. It was fun because I totally lost any hope of making a decent African meal until I met her. We cooked together.
Leila: After graduation, why did you come to America?
Sean: I came to the United States because of a lot of factors. Firstly, my parents and other siblings reside here. Secondly, my wife and I are doctors and we want to practice in the United States. That’s why I chose Customer Service Specialist program, in which I’m able to learn more about providing good customer service in the classroom as well as an externship.
Leila: Even in the US, you live far from your family. What about the food? Did you find food or restaurants where you like to go around here?
Sean: Oh yeah, I live far from my family, but Chicago has a lot of African restaurants. I am also very lucky, my sister lives nearby, so I have access to my favorite meals anytime.
Leila: What products from home do you miss the most?
Sean: Isapa. It’s a vegetable from my city, but even the African shops do not have it here. I miss it.
Leila: What suggestions do you have for international students who are far from home?
Sean: I suggest they make inquiries and join international student groups. They could learn a lot from them. Also, search online for useful hacks to “survive” in the country. (laughing)
Being an international student in the United States myself, I know how difficult it is to “adapt” to the local culture. BUT, as my friend Sean said: “…there are a lot of communities”. You can find your community here, meet your countrymen, share your experience and be “at home” in a different country. I do agree with him, but I think as long as you became an international student, you have a great opportunity to try different things you haven’t done before: learn a new language, meet new people and of course, try new types of cuisine.
Food is essential to life, therefore, make it good!