International students reflect on studying in US in turbulent times

During International Week, also known as I-Week, many University of Miami international students gather to share and celebrate traditions of their native countries in a new country.

“Since I was a little kid it’s been decided that I would go study in the United States,” said Celine Mamedova, a freshman from Belgium.

Freshman Dunya Bulut said she came to the United States because it had more to offer her than her native country of Turkey, particularly in advertising, the major she wanted to pursue.

“I’m happy that I’m here because I’m doing something good, I’m educating myself and this could benefit my country if I go back to Turkey,” Bulut said.

Many international students see the benefits of living in the United States and want to continue to live in the country after graduation, but others see an American education as a resource to then take back to benefit their home countries.

“For now, I love living in America,” said Mohammad Yadekar, a freshman from Kuwait. “I want to have fun, but as I grow up I would appreciate living in Kuwait. If you want to settle down, I think Kuwait is actually much better because it’s so economically stable, it’s so friendly and you have a lot of benefits as a Kuwaiti citizen to live in Kuwait.”

Ilias Benchekroun said that while coming to the United States has been great, there were some things that didn’t live up to his expectations. He said he was disappointed that people in his home country of Morocco believed coming to America would provide opportunities that couldn’t be found in his homeland.

“It’s not the case,” Benchekroun said. “I’ve actually started to think about going back to Morocco after getting my degree because I think I’ll have better opportunities there.”

Home, he said, will always have an unmistakable appeal. Yadekar agreed, and said he missed his home culture, food, traditions and the whole atmosphere, partly because it brings back happy childhood memories.

Ali Bin Hayaza, a business technology student from Yemen, said it was important to find a balance between assimilating to a new culture and preserving native traditions.

“Everybody likes their country,” Bin Hayaza said. “Comparing to America, my home country is completely different, the way people think is different, so I became more ‘Americanized.’ I changed the way I dress, the way I talk and behave.”

Though Bin Hayaza has adapted to the culture, living in America has made him feel conflicted over the past few months, with new immigration policies and restrictions under the Trump administration. Bin Hayaza is a citizen of Yemen, one of the six countries temporarily banned from travel to the United States. As of now, Bin Hayaza is not able to travel back to his homeland but said he stays positive even when news outlets depict Yemen in a way that he is not used to seeing.

“I don’t treat my country differently, not at all,” Bin Hayaza said.