International Students Find Their Way at Rice

#campuslife

As an international student, starting college and moving to a new country can be very daunting. Although I was born in Houston, I moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE when I was 7 years old and lived there for 11 years.  My concept of “home” definitely shifted, and even though I was back in my home country when I started at Rice, it all felt very foreign to me. I had my share of challenges when it came to adjusting to the States and Rice, but I can’t imagine a better university to be at through it all. The past few months have been a whirlwind of learning how to drive and getting a license, utilizing new apps (I never used iMessage or Venmo until moving here!), discovering new stores to shop at and restaurants to eat at, and converting currencies (I still catch myself whipping out a calculator to convert dollars to dirhams when in line for a coffee).

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Attending one of my friend's music recital at the Shepherd School of Music.
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With my O-Week group on trivia night!

Homesickness has been a challenge of its own — an inevitable feeling that takes patience to overcome, and Rice has been wonderful in making it feel like home. In April 2022, I attended one of Rice’s Owl Days, a day for admitted students to visit campus to meet other admitted students and partake in activities centered around life at Rice. It was a great opportunity to explore the campus more and listen to current students talk more about their experiences. I had a chance to connect with a few other international students who shared how supportive Rice is for them.

Bonding with other international students has also been comforting because we are able to relate to one another about our unique experiences. There have been moments where I found myself just wanting to get on a plane back to Abu Dhabi, but this past winter break, I found myself counting down the days until I could get back to Rice, my new home.

- Bela K., Duncan '26

Male student standing on the right side of the screen with his arms crossed and wearing a news cap.
In this video that we made, we asked some of our other international student friends about how they adjusted during their first semester here at Rice!

Slang: America is one of the easiest countries to uproot your life into because much of its culture has spread internationally. However, I still found myself questioning what certain phrases people used meant. Before coming to Rice, I had never heard the VERY popular phrases “slay”, “bestie”, “cap”, etc. It was interesting to suddenly be integrated into an environment in which you knew the language but simultaneously didn’t. I watched countless videos of people breaking down “Gen Z slang.” At many events, you’d hear others chanting the lyrics to a song or defaulting to a particular dance move. It felt uncomfortable to not know what was going on. It was comforting to know that my friends would never judge me for admitting if I did not know something and that they were always willing to teach me. Many international students often become acclimatized to the feeling of not knowing what something means or the cultural context of a meme, but we also grow to love those around us for taking the time to explain what it all means.  Although I still find it awkward at times to use it in everyday speech, I have definitely grown more accustomed to the vernacular and, in the process, gotten closer to my fellow Owls.

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Celebrating Diwali at Hanszen.
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The rocket my teammates and I built with Rice Eclipse, the rocketry club.

LGBTQIA+ and racial Representation:  The CTIS (Critical Thinking in Sexuality) and CDOD (Dialogues on Diversity) classes were very helpful introductory workshops for me this past year. It gave me a gateway to hear the stories of people from the LGBTQ+ community and understand cultural things I was not exposed to in the United Arab Emirates. This was monumental for me because I was able to see people from a different perspective, enabling me to form stronger connections with people at Rice and beyond.

- Nimah S., Hanszen '26

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