While incredibly rewarding, living and studying in another country can also be challenging and isolating at times. Being immersed in a different culture requires navigating new situations and expectations, far removed from the comforts of home and family. That’s why, for Toros from outside the U.S., finding community on campus is one of the most important aspects of their student experience.
During November’s International Education Week, a joint State Department and Department of Education initiative which celebrates the benefits of international exchange, the CSUDH Office of International Education (OIE) hosted a series of events to foster that cross-cultural exchange and sense of belonging on campus. Events included a Diwali celebration, a candy tasting, study abroad storytelling, an international alumni panel, and more.
For Rakshitha Chidananda, a computer science graduate student from India, being able to celebrate Diwali at CSUDH was particularly significant.
“Diwali has a special place in my heart because it’s when everyone in the family comes together,” Chidananda says. “It makes me happy to see the cultural exchange happening here. So many people don’t get the opportunity to experience others’ cultures, so this is very important.”
The Office of International Education serves 318 students from 35 countries who are pursuing degrees at CSUDH. Students from India comprise 78 percent of CSUDH’s international population.
Graduate student Pranay Julu was also excited to attend the Diwali festivities. Prior to moving to California to attend CSUDH in 2022, he had never traveled outside his home country of India, nor been away from his parents. He says joining Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) helped him adjust to his new environment and make meaningful connections, and that the support and programs OIE offers are invaluable.
“I was shocked how much OIE staff care for us,” he says. “They make us feel like it’s our home here.”
International business major Marcelo Cowo, from Belize, also put himself forward for ASI in order to gain experience and build relationships. He encourages international students to break out of their comfort zones, but also asks other Toros to be intentional in reaching out to international students with a kind word or smile.
“Being a college student is hard, but being an international student is even harder,” Cowo says. “We are thousands of miles away from home, and some people have no friends of family nearby.”
Cowo adds that despite the difficulties and homesickness, studying internationally is worth it.
“You learn more about yourself, become more responsible, and create more goals,” he says. “It’s the best way to grow.”
View all photos from the International Education Week Diwali Celebration on SmugMug.