Transitioning to an American College from a Foreign Country: The Bahamas

By: Amanda McMahon

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Elon is known for hosting a large number of international students. In fact, there are currently 49 countries being represented at the University. If you are a student at Elon, it’s only a matter of time before you run into an international classmate. You might even meet Rebecca Roberts, a sophomore from Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas. Roberts is a finance and accounting double major who first discovered Elon through a family friend.

“My mom went to school in North Carolina, so I decided to look at a few schools there. I was already familiar with Elon because I had a friend who had gone there. The small size of the school and the gorgeous campus were definitely factors that helped in my decision to go here.” said Roberts.

Though Elon’s campus may be beautiful, this has not stopped Roberts from missing the unique beauty found only in her home country of the Bahamas. She described her transition from the Bahamas to an American school as somewhat of a slow and steady process.

“At first it was difficult, especially with the cultural differences and the change of scenery. I was used to waking up every day and seeing the ocean, and all of the sudden I was hundreds of miles inland, so that was a big change,” said Roberts. “But, overtime, I became more adjusted and I got used to my surroundings.”

It makes sense that moving from a tropical island to a temperate state in the American South would be a big adjustment, but there is much more to the transition than just the change of scenery. Many people don’t realize that the Bahamas has a distinct culture that differs in many ways from American culture. Roberts said that getting used to cultural differences was one of the biggest struggles she had to overcome.

According to Roberts, “People here are not as friendly or inviting as people in the Bahamas. At home, if I walk by someone and they do not say hello, that is considered to be rude. But here in America, it’s different.”

With all of these differences, it’s no wonder that Roberts grappled with adjusting to America. One might ask how she came to be comfortable with living in this country if it is so different from her home. She explained that the most helpful facet of her transition was being sociable.

“Making friends was really important.” she said. “Once I met people I could relate to, things got a lot better.”

As for being far away from her family, Roberts maintains a refreshingly positive outlook. Although she doesn’t get to see them very often – hey were not able to visit for Parents’ Weekend – she believes that her education and the opportunities that accompany it make the distance worth it.

“It’s really difficult having them be so far away, but we all realize it’s important for me to be here for my education. They support me in everything I do, which makes it a lot easier to be separated. And I always know they’re just a phone call away.”

When asked if she had any advice for first year international students, Roberts offered up a few words of wisdom.

“Talk to people, socialize,” she said “Meeting new people will help you become acquainted with the foreign surroundings and distract you from missing home. Also, just understand that you are here for an education. That has helped me push myself at times when I haven’t wanted to be here.”

While being an international student has had its ups and downs for Roberts, she believes that the experience has been mostly positive. She closed by stating that during her time at Elon, she has thoroughly enjoyed “Meeting many people of different cultures and diverse backgrounds, having the opportunity to attain my education, and making many close friends who will hopefully be with me for the rest of my life.”

Clearly the transition for international students from their home countries to America is not always an easy one. But, with a little socialization and a positive perspective it can be a truly rewarding experience.

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