What Every International Student Should Remember

Story by

Mia Lee


South Korea


Social Science



A lot of posts in this website share international students’ valuable experiences regarding academic issues such as English and their majors. However, my story and the lesson that I learn from my experience are somewhat different than the other stories in this website. Before we get into my story, I want you to think what is the most important, fundamental and necessary condition that allows you to pursuit your academic career in the USA. If I ask this question to my fellow international students, many of them will say that the most critical condition is the fluent English skill. It may be true. English proficiency may be the most fundamental condition in order to study in the USA. However, I think your legitimate F-1 VISA status (student VISA status) is much more critical condition for you in order to keep studying in the USA. Some of you may criticize me being too cynical, but I learned this lesson from my painful experience last winter.

I transferred to my current university in the USA after I finished my sophomore year in previous university in my homeland. Since my major is linguistics and my previous university offered very limited number of courses that directly teach linguistics, I decided to transfer to study linguistics in depth. At the beginning of my first academic year in the USA, I also had lots of troubles just like other international students. I can certainly explain what those problems were with more details in this essay, but I would rather not since they are not the point.

In my first semester, I tried my best to overcome those problems and finally got fairly great score at the end of the semester. At first I was glad that I could get such a great scores even in the USA. However, I became so obsessed with the score itself and starting to lose interest in linguistics. As time goes, I wasn’t sure that I should keep study linguistics. At that time, I was so confused about my future, my major and even myself. Sometimes people go through personal crisis just like I did. At that phrase of life, they need to stop doing what they are doing, step back a little bit from their own lives and take a break, give some time to think about yourselves and your future. I think break like this is very important to succeed academically or professionally. Therefore, I decided to take a break, take a leave of absence more specifically.

The process to get the permission for leave of absence and the process of coming back to USA was not easy. However, the real problem arose a few weeks after I came back to USA. At that time, I came back to school little early in order to take a winter session. The class was great. The professor was enthusiastic and passionate about the class. My classmates were also having fun. On the other hand, I felt so hard to keep up. I thought I was ready, but actually I wasn’t. Since I couldn’t keep taking classes, I dropped the class and promised myself that I would take this again in the next semester.

A few days after I dropped the class, Visa and Immigration Services contacted me and said that I was in trouble. It turns out my student visa status was in danger because I dropped the winter session class. I panicked and asked my professors to take me back to the class. I got into the class again and my visa status was no longer in danger. However, I went through really tough time when I got back into the class. If I wasn’t international student who need a VISA to keep studying in the USA, I could have just dropped the class and take that again in the following semester or whenever I’m ready. However, since I was international student, keeping my legitimate student VISA status in the USA was my urgent priority. Therefore, I had to hold my pain back and keep taking the class. If I look back from now, it is a great thing that I got back to the class and finished what I started instead of giving up.

Even though I had a tough time in the class, I learned lots of valuable lessons from my experience in that winter. Consequently, I learned two significant lessons out of my painful experience last winter. The first one is that no matter how difficult and hard it is, you can overcome it if you tried with your best. The second one is that international students tend to get less freedom in making choices in the university.

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