International students adjust to dorm life

Jackson French

The transition to dorm life is sometimes difficult for freshmen unaccustomed to living away from home, but the experience can be very different for international students who live thousands of miles from home. For them, on-campus housing offers an entirely different set of benefits and challenges.

Sumra Kanwal, a graduate student from Pakistan living in Bemis Lawrence Hall, has found WKU’s dorms to be a welcoming environment.

“On my floor our girls are nice,” she said. “They do talk to me and I talk to them so they’re all friendly.” 

She said living in the dorms has added to her workload.

“I have to cook my food, I have to do my laundry, I have to clean my room — I have to do everything,” she said. 

Kanwal said her sisters, who live in Maryland, have kept her from getting too homesick, and she added that they called almost every day last semester.

For her, difficulties stem mainly from problems with public transportation.  

“Transport is so bad here,” she said, adding that rickshaws and taxis are commonplace in her hometown of Karachi. “There are no public transports so it is so hard to move from one place to another place.”

She said she has applied to be an RA next school year but plans to move to the Registry if she doesn’t get the position.

Kanwal said the main benefit of living off campus will be having her own bathroom, but living on campus has benefits as well.

She said living in dorms has allowed her the chance to interact with other international students through whom she has learned about other cultures and improved her English skills.

Alina Zahra Sajan, a sophomore from Dubai who also lives in Bemis Lawrence, said she has no interest in living off campus.  

She said living in the dorms appeals to her because it makes it easier for her to stay connected with others.

“On campus, there are people everywhere and if you live off campus it’s more quiet…I have less contact with people and that’s bad because I’m not from here so I wouldn’t get around as much or know much if I lived off campus.”

Sajan had a few complaints about the dorms, commenting that the rooms were too small and “the bathrooms are just nasty.” 

She also said she disliked being unable to have candles in the rooms.

Sajan said she still enjoys living in the dorms mainly because it puts her in closer proximity to more people.

“I’m hardly even in my room anyway,” she said. “I’m always out so I’m just there for showering and sleepy-time.” 

She said homesickness hasn’t been an issue for her. 

“I’m not really family oriented so I don’t really miss my family as much, but I kind of miss everything else about home like the food and people and the lifestyle,” she said.

As a resident assistant, Pakistani grad student Ayaz Ahmed Sadal’s dorm life experience has been a little different. 

Sadal has experience living off campus and said he prefers to live in the residence halls. 

“Over here in dorms, it gives me an opportunity to connect with more people and to know more things about different things that have been going on on campus,” he said.

As an RA, Sadal has never had a roommate in the dorms and said he likes living by himself. 

“I don’t like sharing my personal private things which is my room itself,” he said. “I’m a kind of a person who respects others’ privacy and I want others to respect my privacy.”

For Sadal, the main challenge of living so far from home is being separated from his family. 

“I’m a very family-oriented person so I’ve been living over here for the last two years over here away from family, which makes me sad sometimes,” he said.

Sadal said he wishes to stay in Southwest and resume his duties as an RA next year.