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International students are an essential part of the Emory undergraduate community. At our Atlanta campus, 18% of undergraduate students are international, while 13% of our Oxford campus is international. These students from all over the globe enrich Emory University with their perspectives, culture, and academic integrity.
We recently interviewed a sophomore studying at our Oxford campus about his experience transitioning to Emory as an international student. Read about his experience below.
Name: Dongshen Li
Major: Quantitative Sciences
Hometown: Shenzhen, China
Class: 24OX, 26C*
*Class years are listed with an abbreviation of the school attended to distinguish current students and alumni. For example, Dongshen will transition from Oxford College (OX) to the Atlanta campus in 2024 (24OX) and plans to graduate from Emory College (C) in 2026 (26C).
1. Describe your experience transitioning from China to America as an international student.
Transitioning to an entirely new country was challenging to say the least. I struggled with small tasks that I didn’t even think about before coming here such as setting up a bank account and getting situated for course registration. During this time, I remember having to stay on painfully long calls with customer service people to discuss problems without getting close to a solution.
I also struggled with homesickness and the shockingly new cultural aspects of life that I was thrown into. What I realized was that I needed to be a lot more independent and proactive than I ever was before in order to succeed. I also learned to rely on my support systems to help me through this time.
2. What were some resources at Oxford that helped you transition to life in America?
International students come a week before the majority of the freshman class arrives so that helped me to adapt to the brand new setting in a calmer environment. During this time, I was assigned an iMentor, or an upperclassman whose sole job was to help me transition by helping to build a strong network and answer any questions or concerns I had. The college also provided me with access to free shuttles that could take me to places like the bank and the grocery store to help me get everything set up.
This year, I took up the role as an iMentor to help other students like me who may have felt overwhelmed with the transition feel at least a little bit more at ease. I found that my time as an iMentor was very rewarding and allowed me to make an impact on the lives of others.
3. If you could give a piece of advice to incoming international students, what would it be?
Do not be afraid to ask! I’ve noticed that a lot of the times international students try to take the burden of figuring everything out onto themselves. If I had to guess, I think this stigma behind asking others for help comes from prior cultural beliefs that one should try their best not to bother others. From my experience however, asking others for help – such as sophomores, staff, or other peers – saves a huge chunk of time.
Try not to think of asking questions as being a bother. You are there to further your education and succeed so it’s in your best interest to rely on the support of others. Also, my last piece of advice would be to try and get your driver’s license as soon as you can!
4. What do you do to deal with homesickness?
Like most students here, I make an effort to FaceTime my friends and family back home whenever I can. However, I found that I became the most homesick during the time of year when traditional cultural festivals would usually take place. During those times when I couldn’t celebrate with my loved ones back home, I would rely on my network here at Oxford. I would gather up a few friends and have a celebration ourselves by cooking up and eating foods that reminded us of home in one of the residential kitchens here on campus. Getting a taste of home through comfort food really helped me push past feelings of homesickness and persevere through the semester.
5. How would you describe the community of international students at Oxford College?
The international student community here at Oxford is diverse and tight-knit. People come from all around the world to study here at our college which allows us to gain new insights into differing cultures and perspectives.
Also, because we all arrive on campus earlier than most, we have the opportunity to get to know each other and build friendships. All of us have the shared experience of making the exciting and scary move to somewhere completely different culturally. We’re able to bond over this shared experience, support each other through the process, and become closer because of it.
6. What have you enjoyed the most about your experience at Oxford?
Oxford’s small population has made it really easy to make connections with a number of people. During my time here, I’ve been able to really get to know my peers and my professors. In my classes, I was able to get one-on-one attention whenever I needed it in order to succeed.
One of my favorite things to do is to play pool with my friends in the Jolley Residential Center (JRC). The pool table is right in front of the entrance to the hall and most of the time I end up greeting at least a few people that I know as they walk through the door. Most of all, I love how calm and peaceful the campus is. Whenever I’m feeling stressed or a bit homesick, I could walk through the quad and just clear my mind.
Are you a considering applying to Emory, but are concerned that you won’t be able to visit the campus? See our blog post How to Know Emory is Right Without Visiting in Person. To learn more about applying to Emory University as an International Student, click here. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.