Here’s How One International Student Adjusted to US Culture

OIS Communications Editor Deeksha is an international student. Born in India, she moved to the Middle East at the age of 9 and has been living in the US since she turned 18. Writing for OIS, she talks cultural differences, leaving her comfort zone, and adjusting to her life in the US. See what she has to say!

It almost seems like a dream – you applied to USC and waited anxiously, until that life-changing day you received your acceptance letter. You’ve prepared, packed, and hopped on a flight to the United States, and now you’re in sunny Southern California ready to start a brand-new, exciting chapter in your life. There’s a lot going on in your mind – what will your room look like? Will you get along with your peers? One such question takes center stage – what will your international experience be, and will you be able to adjust?

As a third-culture kid, this is what I go through every time I move to a new country. I consider myself somewhat of an expert in adapting to the country I live in – at only 25 years of age, I’ve already lived in four! Moving away from your hometown and settling in a new country without your family takes a lot of courage, but it can simultaneously be extremely overwhelming. However, finding your rhythm in your new surroundings isn’t too difficult once you give yourself a little push in the right direction.

When I first moved to the US, I was a fresh-faced, bright-eyed, and extremely terrified 18-year-old. However, having previously lived in three countries, I knew that it was extremely important to force myself outside my comfort zone. Your comfort zone is just that – a comforting, familiar state of mind. Everyone’s comfort zone is different, and mine was staying in with a favorite book. However, books – as much as I consider them to be very real friends – are no substitute for human interaction and friendships, and so I forced myself to leave the comfort of my dorm room and mingle with my peers.

Mingling with fellow students can also be tricky. If you choose to mingle with those from your own culture, you’re staying in your comfort zone. The US college experience offers something very rarely found – an opportunity to immerse yourself in cultures from across the world. This is very much part of the US college experience you’ve left your home for, and it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to diversify your experience. I’ve celebrated festivals and sampled foods of different cultures, and even learned how to write my name in multiple languages! I consider my multicultural experience in the US as invaluable and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This might sound like a daunting task – it can be very difficult to approach a complete stranger from a culture you know nothing about, as this amplifies your fear of the unknown. This is where campus organizations can help you! As an undergraduate, I was a member of my university’s South Asian Students Association and Women’s Leadership Society, and served on the executive board of the Young Arab Leaders Association. As a graduate student at USC, I serve on the executive board for Annenberg Graduate Student Representatives, work as Communications Editor at OIS, and am a member of Lambda Pi Eta. I can confidently say that participating in campus organizations has introduced me to some of my closest friends, and it keeps me so busy that I don’t have the time to feel lonely! I encourage you to do the same, as USC has wonderful resources to help us international students settle in and adjust to American culture. OIS hosts multiple events across the semester where you can mingle with your international peers – both from within and outside your culture. Attend involvement fairs, try out an organization, or simply strike up a conversation with a classmate. Los Angeles will begin to feel like home in no time at all!

Written by: Deeksha Lal, OIS Communications Editor, Master of Communication Management, USC Annenberg 2020