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Life of an International Student

By Keiran President
On October 4, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

As an American freshman college student, moving out of the house to live on campus is a whole new beginning. New friends, new location, but still not too far from home.

However, as an international college student, we add a few more important factors to this list: new culture, new foods and longer travels.

Sprinting over the waters to get here, 23-year-old Meshach Mcknight hails from the Caribbean island of Jamaica. McKnight is in his first season as Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Graduate Assistant.

“I was excited about studying abroad because I was getting the opportunity to experience a new culture, further my education, while playing a sport I love,” McKnight says.

McKnight first came to the United States in August of 2012 on a volleyball scholarship at Emmanuel University, where he majored in mathematics and computer science. Since then, he has only returned home on one occasion in January of 2015.

Before taking on this new venture of studying abroad, McKnight recalls, “The most difficult thing for me was leaving my family, especially my mother and grandmother who I miss the most.”

When asked about other things he misses, he says, “I really miss home-cooked Jamaican meals, along with our tropical weather conditions!”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for McKnight. He found minor difficulties with communication.

“It took me a while to get familiar to the slang, gestures and word choices,” he says.

Despite these challenges, McKnight has enjoyed his time in the U.S.

Upon completion of his degree at Ottawa, McKnight would like to get a job while going to school part-time in pursuit of his PHD.

Fun fact about McKnight: “I am a dog whisperer,” he says. He is also fluent in English, Spanish and speaks French at a business level.

International student Lewis Verdouw hails from the land down under. Verdouw is a 21-year-old Junior majoring in business accounting from Tasmania, Australia.

Verdouw is a 6 foot 1 inch center forward who recently transferred to Ottawa University from Pratt Community College on a soccer scholarship.

Traveling more than 18 hours, flying over a variety of ocean bodies and land masses, Verdouw explains what the trip entrails.

“I have to fly from Tasmania to Sydney or Melbourne because to Hobart airport is too small to do international flights, which is a 1- to 2-hour flight. Then take a 14-hour flight to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Final flight to Kansas City is 3 hours,” he says.

Being on so many planes and flying for such long periods of times, Verdouw spends all his time watching movies, as he finds sleeping very hard to do on a plane.

Just like McKnight, Verdouw is excited about getting the opportunity to study abroad.

“The U.S. is such a massive place with so many people! Tasmania’s population is quite small compared to here,” he says.

Verdouw has been in the U.S. for three years now and travels home every summer. When asked about cultural differences he noticed, Verdouw says, “Everything here is a lot more spread out; it takes a long time to get from city to city. They love country music here, but I don’t think I had ever heard it back home. There is also a lot more history here. Australia is a much younger country compared to here.”

The hardest thing for Verdouw was leaving his family and friends for such long periods of time.

“I do miss home a lot, especially my family, but I never get lonely because I’m always surrounded by good friends and teammates here,” he says.

When Verdouw is not on the soccer field or in class, he enjoys PlayStation 4, watching television or going to the gym.

We asked what would be the first thing Verdouw does when he gets back home?

“Probably sleep after all the flights,” he says, laughing. “But I would also catch up with my immediate family and some of my best mates.”

Upon the completion of his degree, Verdouw would like to return home to work in accounting or finance area.

Fun fact about Verdouw: “I have very wide feet yet I’m a terrible at swimming.”

Being an international student is a bittersweet thing. The bitterness of leaving behind friends, family and basically a life you were accustomed of living in to start basically a new life far away from all what you are used to.

However, the sweeter side of traveling to a new country includes meeting new people, learning about different cultures and the list goes on.

Being an international student could be very difficult but, on a campus like ours, it is a lot less difficult. We have a small student population, and almost everyone has teammates to make them feel welcomed and bring in the family aspect international students left behind.

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