Adding international flavor to Castleton

A group of international students explore New York City on a recent trip.

Studying abroad is wonderful, full of new opportunities, experiences and excitement. But it can also come with missing home. Homesickness, academic stress and cultural diversity are always the challenging parts of this adventure.

Three Vermont State University at Castleton international students shared their stories recently, both confessing to the challenges they face as well as highlighting their thrills.

Mahmoud Alyazji is from Palestine and is studying English language and literature. He said he had big expectations coming Castleton and so far, he’s loving it.

“As I’m now living here, I find my expectations highly match. I love the education here, and I admire the professors’ kindness with dealing with the students. I experience cultural variety as I meet new people from different areas every day,” he said.

Rabiya Hashmi is from Pakistan and is majoring health sciences. Although Castleton is much quieter than where she’s from, Hashmi said she is really enjoying it here.

“It’s a much smaller town than I expected it to be but the peace and quiet with the green surroundings has turned out to be a welcome change to the hectic, chaotic environment that I am used to back home. Being on a cultural exchange program, I did not think I would be bombarded with so many assignments and quizzes every week, but I am glad I have been able to handle them well so far,” she said.

Hazel Susana Segovia Beltran is from El Salvador and is majoring Writing and Literature. She found Castleton entirely different from her home country. She said she is used to living in a loud city and being able to move around freely, but this change feels refreshing, a quiet and relaxing space for her.

“In my country we don’t have campuses, at first, I was doubtful about the experience of living in college, I’ve liked it so far. Also, classes here are shorter and I don’t have to wake up as early as I do in my country,” she said.

International students say they’re missing their traditional food.

Despite enjoying it here, all said there are things they miss from home. Food is a big issue for all international students.

Alyazji said he only eats Halal food and it is sometimes challenging to find food that aligns with his retractations.

“I can’t eat meat here at all because I can’t find Halal ones. I miss my Halal traditional food such as Magluba and Somagya. I’d love to try to cook my traditional food and make it included on the menu of Huden,” Alyazji said.

Hashmi came to Castleton with very low expectations regarding food and she found it better here than what she expected.

“The thing I miss the most about my culture is the food, including both home-cooked meals and street food. I am looking forward to cooking some traditional dishes for I-seminar class and the international fair and sharing the delicious and diverse cuisine of Pakistan with the people here,” she said.

Segovia found the food tasteless here in comparison to Salvadorian food, however she said the offerings are not much different.

“I definitely miss Salvadorian food. America’s food is not that different from ours, but our traditional dishes are tasty. American food is tasteless compared to what I’m used to eating. If I get the opportunity with the Multicultural Club, I want to cook my food for the club students to try,” Segovia said.

Being abroad, international students are also curious about traveling around and seeing new places. All said visiting New York city was one of their dreams, albeit with a relatively low probability of coming true. But they succeeded to turn this dream into reality. Alyazji traveled several places and he said he is still impressed by the beauty of them.

“In Vermont, I went to several cities such as Rutland and Burlington. I visited the Champlain Valley Fair with my international friends, and I had fun trying different kinds of amusement games. Outside Vermont, I visited New York city for the first time. I still see the gigantic towers when I close my eyes; the views of sophisticated budlings and streets still are stuck in my mind,” he said.

Hashmi said she has been fortunate to have visited a few locations outside of Castleton this past month.

“The two experiences that stand out for me are the UGRAD Welcome Workshop in Washington D.C., which marked the beginning of my journey in the U.S., and the recent trip to New York City with my group of international friends that I have made at Castleton,” she said.

Dovud Akobirov, is an international student at VTSU Castleton from Tajikistan.

Mahmoud Alyazji is an international student from Palestine.

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