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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The first impressions of an international student

Illustration by (Shavonne Chin)

I’ve been a student at Quinnipiac University for almost a month and the question I have heard the most is, “Why Hamden, Connecticut?”

It’s a very valid question. How did somebody from a small country in the middle of Europe find themselves in Connecticut of all places, and not New York or Massachusetts?

There is no short version of why people decide to uproot their life and move so far away from home. The answers may vary; I have heard many different ones. Athletic scholarships and better education are popular, but this one’s my favorite: sometimes, you just want to get the heck out of there.

So, you pack everything that fits, hop on a plane and hope you end up someplace that won’t make you tear your hair out. It’s an enormous decision and you don’t really understand the impact it can have until it happens.

Sure, I was looking forward to new places and people, as well as getting my education in something I’m passionate about: English. When moving to a new country, you might not consider the changes you will go through or the compromises you have to make. There are moments where you look like the insane one, like when I screamed at my friend the first time I rode with her in her car and she took a right turn at a red traffic light.

If there is one thing I don’t think I will never stop complaining about, it’s the food. Mind you, I come from the Slovak Republic; the food is not that different. It’s the small differences that make you lose your mind, along with your appetite.

In Slovakia, fried food is strictly reserved for fast foods or special circumstances, but here in America, having it for breakfast blew my mind. I had never even heard of a hash brown before. In Slovakia, pancakes with syrup and bacon are something we joke about being a pregnancy craving, yet I see people ordering it here all the time.

I’m not even beginning to unpack the topic of portion sizes. The first thing I was told at the international student orientation was that Americans like their portions big. Fortunately, the food in the Quinnipiac dining halls doesn’t fall into this category. However, it lacks variety for someone like me, who is not used to eating heavily saturated and sweetened food very often.

It’s an adjustment for sure, and it makes me appreciate what I didn’t before. Right now, I would sell my soul for my national dish, Bryndzové pirohy, a thin potato dough wrapped around a combination of grated potatoes and a sheep cheese we call Bryndza. Or bread. The thought of fresh-baked bread from a local bakery makes my mouth water.

On a more positive note, I am not capable of trashing every aspect of my experience here. The people I have met so far, who range from cashiers to my fellow students, have been so nice and open. Standard greetings among acquaintances are not common back home. A simple wave and maybe a head nod are common in Slovakian culture.

 The biggest mistake I keep making is failing to either answer or ask the American “How are you?” greeting. It’s a simple greeting, yet it’s a few more words than I’m used to saying to people in passing. In my country, “How are you?” is a question you ask someone when you genuinely want to know the answer. Simply responding “fine” and moving on makes me feel like I am leaving an open conversation. It’s a strange feeling and makes me feel rude. If you ever encounter an international student that doesn’t ask, “How are you?” don’t hold it against them. We’re all doing our best here.

I equate my decision to come to America with a flip of a coin: I won’t know whether it was the right decision until the coin lands. My first week was tough, and not just because it was the first week of college. The school system differs from what I’m used to and from what I’ve been told university would be like. From living on campus to having to walk to different classes and seeing huge crowds of students, all of it can be more overwhelming than the coursework assigned. I feel like I am expected to adjust so fast, which in reality is just not possible.

I will say this though, once you meet and find your people, it gets marginally easier. The freedom to choose my own classes and the wide selection of choices is incredible. My professors are incredibly understanding that it’s a struggle and are more than willing to help. The fact that there is an entire department dedicated to helping international students makes the transition even easier. I’ve been here for four weeks and I must say, so far I am definitely not regretting my decision. It can always be worse, right?

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Alexandra Martinakova
Alexandra Martinakova, Editor-in-Chief

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    Betsy QuitkoSep 22, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    Welcome to Quinnipiac and to Ct. You will meet wonderful people. Enjoy 💖