Sink or Swim, You’re In The Deep End Now

Welcome to a new 5-chapter series on being an international student in America, and the many (many) ups and downs this journey brings along with it. Even if you’re not an international student yourself, I encourage you to read these short posts. t At the risk of sounding self-important, I think you may find something to draw from them, whether it’s a fun anecdote or the incredulity that comes with reading about a human experience so different from your own. And if you do one day end up going abroad for your own experience, the tips woven into these chapters may just give you a helping hand.

If you’ve been reading my posts on making and maintaining friendships in college, you’ll probably notice a lot of parallels between that series and this one—after all, both have to do with reorienting yourself in a new environment, and both rely very heavily on metaphors. So why not start with one?

Whereas I had begun my last series with a metaphor that encouraged you to see yourself as the puzzle master in your own life, I think a more accurate image for international students is that of a vast ocean or body of water, one that many may also physically cross to arrive at their final destination. In this scenario, you, the international student, get to be your own self, staring out across the horizon and marveling at the scene before you. Many thoughts flit through your head, the principal one probably being a reflection on the immensity of the journey ahead of you if you were to take that first step. You see the waves, and you know that once you do make the plunge, there’s no going back, and that thought excites you just as much as it scares you. But in this moment, you choose to let the excitement take over; with both feet on land, you feel grounded enough to see your choice to take the plunge as a reasonable and even logical decision. Why shouldn’t you go in the water? It’ll be refreshing, a nice change of pace. An opportunity to do, see, and be more. When I think back to my own experience moving abroad for the first time, all I can remember is the excitement. I was around ten years old at the time, so naturally my imagination took off before I could even put a leash around it. No doubts, or very insignificant ones, crossed my mind.

“ocean” by Douglas A Lewis is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

The next part of the metaphor sees you quite literally jumping into the water, and, before you know it, you find yourself in the middle of the ocean. The journey here is a blur; when did the water rise to your knees? To your waist? How are you just now realizing that you’re wading endlessly, with no sight of the land you know like the back of your hand? That’s usually when expectation meets reality, and the panic hits. You start to realize that all of a sudden, the responsibility is on you. You chose to step away from the familiar. What once seemed like an exciting, new adventure in a coming-of-age movie is starting to look more and more like a thriller where you get your hand bitten off by a shark because you hadn’t realized how far you’d gone on your own, and now you don’t know how to ask for help.

Well, rescue boat at your service here. The advice I have for this predicament may not be the advice you want to hear, or you may find the most helpful at first, but it’s the one that I’ve come to rely on in my own moments of irrational fear and “what the heck do I do now?” Here we go, are you ready? If you want to not only survive, but also enjoy the experience of being an international student, the first thing you have to do is accept the fact that the person who got you in the deep end is the same one that’s going to get you out. Like I said only a couple paragraphs ago, a large part of the excitement of going abroad is the self-drive it takes to say yes to dropping everything and going somewhere new. At that moment, in the short time it takes to take the plunge, you’re trusting yourself to live up to your commitment to not only survive, but thrive in that new place. In order to do that, you have to realize that the person you are during a  crisis and the person you are during a situation of comfort are the same person. Jumping in the water didn’t turn you into a fish, nor did it all of a sudden make you a dead weight; if you’ve made it this far, it means you already know how to swim far enough to make it where you find yourself now.

What you’re in now then is not a physical battle, but rather a mental one, in which your opponent takes the form of all the lies and insecurities you have about not being strong or capable enough to make it in this new environment, in this new state of stress. So start channeling those positive thoughts and telling yourself what, in the deep end of your mind, you already know, and start swimming, floating, and kicking your way out of that deep end now.

Main Takeaways:

·  Being an international student can make you feel like you’re in the middle of a vast ocean, with no land in sight. When that happens, take a moment to breathe and remember that you weren’t just dropped in the middle of this ocean; you swam here, and you’ll swim back out when you need to.

·  Making it abroad is almost entirely a mental battle; in those moments of stress, it’s important to remember that just because your feelings are constantly shifting, your abilities are not. You are just as capable as you were when you first set out, and you need to accept the fact that though comfort may at times be lacking, you have the ability to adapt to and get through any situation you put your mind to.

Chiara Jurczak is a second-year student at Northeastern University where she is majoring in Political Science and Communication Studies. She is currently finding new ways to explore her passions for creative writing, publishing and political crises, and hoping to figure it all out sooner rather than later. In her free time, you can find her reading, baking, or trying to talk her friends into going on fun (and at times strange) adventures.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


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