1. Always being at least a little bit jet-lagged for the first week of classes.
2. Drinking legally* at home for years, but moving to the U.S. and suddenly being underage.
*Or at least easily.
3. Finding a friend with whom to go home for Thanksgiving…
Or being literally alone on campus, while you scroll through everyone’s family-and-food Instagrams.
4. Converting everything from American dollars to your home currency, and feeling abysmally poor or dangerously rich, depending on where you’re from.
I would love an OBJECTIVE idea of how much I should spend on dinner, please.
5. Spelling and pronouncing random words differently than Americans do…
WTF is “Uh-LOO-mi-num”? It’s aaa-luh-MINI-yum! COME ON.
And dealing with idiots who insist that your way isn’t just different, it’s wrong.
6. Figuring out which ID to carry with you when you go out.
At some point, you’ll find yourself at a club with your passport in your back pocket, certain it’s going to fall out and get you deported.
7. Initially being overwhelmed and shocked by the humongous food-portion sizes…
And then, in a few months, being completely able to finish an entire portion AND order dessert.
8. Having random gaps in your pop culture knowledge, and resorting to the smile-and-nod tactic to pretend you know what’s being talked about.
Yes, I heard “Ignition (Remix)” for the first time this year. No, I haven’t seen every Mary-Kate and Ashley movie. Who the hell is Cousin Skeeter?
9. Going days without talking to your parents because when they’re up and free to call, you’re not.
10. The shock of realizing that your version of America was based on TV stereotypes.
SOME SOLO CUPS ARE BLUE, NOT RED. “CENTRAL PERK” DOESN’T EVEN EXIST.
11. When you accidentally use slang from your home country and everyone looks at you like you’re nuts.
12. Scouring the entire continental United States for someone who will cook your native cuisine as well as your mom.
And eventually missing home food so much that you find ways to slip it through customs.
Risking deportation has never been more worth it.
13. Speaking of which: Having a constant fear that every tiny infraction will result in you being deported.
14. Paperwork. So much damn paperwork.
Are I-20 and I-94 new Apple products designed to inflict torture on international students?
15. And maniacally scrambling to the international students’ office to get all of it signed in time.
No matter where you went to school, chances are this building was located literally AS inconveniently as possible.
16. The awkward resentment you feel when people try to tell you they know how you feel.
OK, OK, OK, everyone’s experience is valid… BUT YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.
17. Navigating the weirdness of your slowly evolving accent… Especially when your mom calls.
18. All the hours you’ve wasted standing nervously in airport immigration and security lines.
19. The dread and fear you associate with the letters O, P, and T.
20. And the fact that so many potential employers seem allergic to the words “visa” and “sponsorship.”
21. The brief and horrifying moment when you seriously consider marrying someone for a green card.
Because god knows it’s easier than getting that work visa.
22. Figuring out what the holidays mean and how you should be responding to them.
Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Presidents Day, MLK Day, etc., etc., etc. JUST TELL ME WHEN I CAN STAY HOME PLEASE.
23. Your constantly buzzing phone, thanks to WhatsApp, BBM, and Viber…
And the fact that your friends across the world are awake when you’re trying to sleep.
24. Telling people where you’re from and then having to deal with their questions and misconceptions.
“Why is your English so good? Did you have a computer?”
25. Constantly worrying about reinforcing stereotypes, and feeling a responsibility to break them.
Relatedly: The horror of realizing you’re someone’s Token Foreign Friend.
LOVE ME FOR WHO I AM.