Students from near and far attempt to make the U new home

New students, from places as far as Malaysia and as close as South Dakota, find ways to acclimate to Minnesota.

Psychology freshman Aurora Luo, far left, signs up to receive more information on student group AIESEC while other first year students speak with AIESEC representative Jenny Zhou at the Explore U activities fair held at Mariucci Arena on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Luo is an international student from Beijing.

Carter Jones

Psychology freshman Aurora Luo, far left, signs up to receive more information on student group AIESEC while other first year students speak with AIESEC representative Jenny Zhou at the Explore U activities fair held at Mariucci Arena on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Luo is an international student from Beijing.

David Clarey

While most freshmen worry about making friends and being on their own for the first time, some struggle to understand the language their professor speaks.

This year the University of Minnesota accepted over 5,800 first-year students. Every fall since 2011, international students have made up five to six percent of the freshman class, according to Office of Institutional Research data.

Some — like freshman Zhanbo Wang — are experiencing the country for the first time.

Wang moved to Minnesota last week from Australia, so speaking English isn’t an issue.

But he came without his parents and friends, and said he had to prepare for homesickness and the search for new friends, along with how things work in Minnesota.

“I believe that at some stages there will be problems … but I need to be prepared for it,” he said.

Still, like most other freshman, Wang can’t decide on a major. His parents want him to pursue engineering for income reasons, but he is personally drawn to chemistry, he said.

“I am still kind of struggling, should I choose my dream?” Wang said. “Or come back to reality and just get a job with very good payments?”

Some of the other challenges international students face are small and difficult to anticipate, said Minnesota International Student Association president Simran Singh.

MISA is a group that focuses on helping international students acclimate to campus and deal with the smaller — but more complex — issues that arise during their time here.

“It’s a lot of working through those small things that makes the biggest difference,” Singh said.

She said this often includes things that domestic students may not think of — like communication issues and different cultural expectations.

Still, along with the worries that are unique to students from other countries, a big focus for those who attended University’s ‘Explore U’ event was how to get involved in campus culture.

Xu Feng, an international student from China, attended the event on Saturday to find ways to get involved on campus.

“I like to be a part of the team,” he said, adding that he liked sports in high school.

This semester — despite an 18-credit schedule — he wants to join several groups.

“I asked the Tennis Club and they said they will have 4-hour per week training, but I don’t really think it will be a problem,” he said. “I will have some time.”

Mohkan Singh moved from Malaysia to Minnesota a year ago for school.

He traveled alone, and recalled worrying about being stopped because of his turban.

Singh said he arrived at his dorm at midnight to find his roommate already moved in — the first person he fully met in Minnesota.

Still, a year later, he said the majority of his friends are international students.

“I usually hang out with international students, and the only local friends I had were from my classes,” he said.

Singh said branching out and making American friends was the most difficult part of starting school at the University.

“After a while you feel at home again, you get that confidence to just go out and meet people who are very different,” he said.

Others, like Yingjie Su, transferred from other domestic universities to the Twin Cities campus.

Su, now a junior, transferred from Augustana University in South Dakota after participating in a transfer program in high school that brought her to the United States.

Su said she elected to take a smaller class load this semester to ease her move to Minnesota.

“It’s always difficult to go somewhere new. You start over again,” Su said.