6000 Miles Away: My Life as an International Student



Alyana Acacio

University of California, Berkeley graduate class of 2017

You got into your dream school and it’s now August. You pack your bags with all the essentials your university welcome package listed. Leaving home is hard, but it is also exciting. I remember landing at SFO and the immigration officer welcomed me to “some of the best years of my life”. Looking back, he wasn’t wrong and I’m excited for you to embark on the same journey. Here are a few moments from my first week in college that you will inevitably experience as well.

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1 Saying goodbye to your family

This was by far the most difficult thing about being an international student. My parents came all the way to Berkeley to drop me off. Watching them leave my dorm room, I broke down in tears - not the way I wanted my new roommates to first see me! It will be a difficult first few days but you’ll power through and the time between holidays home will feel less and less.

2 Attending the first international orientation

I met my first friend at international orientation. We were both standing awkwardly and the Bank of America representative told us we should talk. We did, and I was just a bridesmaid at her recent wedding in Xiamen.

3 Missing Home Food

I stuffed my luggage with food from home - noodles, snacks, sweets. It was my safety pile and I went straight for it when the homesickness would get bad. Fortunately, Berkeley was filled with good Asian restaurants so soon enough, I adapted to the environment and yes, gained the infamous Freshman 15.

4 Dealing with Paperwork

Coming from a foreign country, I had to deal with a lot more paperwork than my US citizen roommate, who lived 5 miles from home. My advice is to reach out to your international office if you have any questions or confusion.

5 Feel Freedom

While no curfews or no chores is fun, college allows you the freedom to explore who you are. Whether it’s joining that Hinduism class or making new friends that you would otherwise not lean towards in high school, college is a time for self-discovery and growth.

My college life was an amazing time and I would not have been able to experience it if not for the people who helped me get into my dream school. If you’re in the process of your college application, consider making an appointment with our tutors on Helppo. Helppo is an online English tutoring platform in Hong Kong. Founded in Colorado USA in 2016, Helppo will help you present your best possible self in that personal statement. We understand it is not easy to find affordable Native English Tutors in Hong Kong, therefore we offer a free trial lesson with our college admission staff.