There are memories that you take with you for the rest of your life. It’s a similar case at the University of Redlands. There isn’t a specific reason for why it’s amazing and it’s hard to put into words every experience I have had here, but I can try my best in the simplest of words.
University of Redlands is a predominantly a white school, followed by a fairly big percentage of the Hispanic/Latino population, and then a small percentage of African-American, Asian, mixed, etc. It’s safe to say that International Students all together probably make up only 4% of the entire population at this university. So typically, not much importance would be given to a small minority. However, I have to say that the University of Redlands still does a better job than expected in accommodating international students.
We have an entire center dedicated to the welfare and support of international students. It doesn’t just help with official documents or visa related issues, it supports students in every way it can. We also have an entire orientation dedicated just for international students a week before regular orientation. The purpose of the orientation is so that students feel welcome in this country, can slowly get over the culture shock and get a tour of the city! In this week, students create very strong bonds with each other and these bonds stay strong for all their time here.
I love taking classes here. Depending on the department, a lot of classes here are discussion based. This is something I’m not normally used to, but I think I have adapted to the style really well. There are times that I feel left out of the conversation because I don’t understand a specific part of this country’s history, but I also think that’s a part of learning in a different country.
Luckily, we have a wonderful group of international students that are in the process of creating a new organization on campus called the Redlands International Student Association (RISA). Although we do have a lot of diversity related organizations on campus, there isn’t one specifically that meets the needs of students from a few specific countries. The idea of RISA is to help those that are feel left out find a space where their opinions are important. We want to have professors come in and talk about a specific part of American culture so that we feel included in conversations about the history of this country. Our main goal is to bring awareness to the entire campus that even though we are 4% of the population, we exist here and we are among everyone here.
The University celebrates a lot of international festivals on campus, although most of the credit goes to the center for Campus Diversity and Inclusion and Diversity Organizations. Throughout the years of the university, many organizations and centers have come together to celebrate various festivals and religious holidays from across the world. The best part is that the students of Redlands genuinely seem interested in showing up and being a part of the culture, the audience always tends to be larger than expected.
In recent years, we have also started international student dinners where we invite students to be a part of an international dinner. Last semester, we had Peruvian food and we had a great turnout rate. This semester, we had Indian food and the turnout was just as good. I am excited that we have meetings where students are able to just interact and catch up with each other. These are the few spaces where I think people can feel most welcomed. We aren’t a minority, we are just us.
International students also have their own Volleyball team! We call ourselves the “Globallers.” While this started off as a thing to do for fun and for us to spend time with each other, the team has gotten competitive over the last three years and participates in competitions with other teams. It’s another great way for us to feel included in the bigger picture! People hear about us because we compete against them.
I’ve noticed that most international students tend to hang out with each other or with other ethnic people. While we do like to socialize with other people, I think it’s nice to be able to talk in your own language with a few people or know that they understand your culture. Many of us have jobs on campus as well, and they make it pretty easy for us to secure jobs here. A lot of us happen to be TAs or Tutors, a lot of the time in our own languages.
I think that it’s impossible not to feel homesick and miss your family. However, it’s possible to feel a little less homesick. If you go out there and get yourself involved and immersed in different cultures, there are many spaces that will welcome you just like any family and that’s the beauty of studying here. I know that there are wonderful people here always trying to make sure that we get the right funds to be supported in the best ways possible and I trust them.
Komal Muthyalu is an Indian student from Dubai studying Digital Transformation and Business Strategy at University of Redlands.