× Home Team Articles Culture Shock Far + Farther Fashion Showcase Influencers Love. The Millenial Way Sound Interactive Nightmares on Campus
Issue 8
Fall 2018
Columbia College Chicago

Far & Farther

Photographer  Ester M. Bell    Writer  Emma Jackson     Design + Director  Nick Rissmeyer

The international student program at Columbia College Chicago welcomes students from over 40 countries. But for those of us who have not had the chance to spend an exchange semester or year in another country, we don’t understand what it is really like to be thrown into a city in a foreign country by yourself. We have classes with these students, we are in dorms together, but a barrier still seems to be present between us. Here, three international students share their experiences moving to Chicago by themselves, and what they’ve learned along the way.

Name: Olga Savic

Year: Junior
From: Croatia
Where are you studying: University of East London

How did you find Columbia:
My university in London does an exchange program with Columbia. I saw the poster and was interested so I went to get more information. They offer exchange programs in Australia, Brazil, Spain and America, and I was [most] interested in America. They had other school options in America but they were not as famous [as Chicago]. Chicago was my top choice because it’s a bigger city, it has more opportunities and it’s a famous city for journalism.

Why did you want to study in America? America’s one of the best places. When you say America, it’s a big deal.

What is the best part of going to school here? The orientation was really helpful because they introduced us to what’s going on here, we met a lot of people — I found it very helpful to have it a few days before the start of college.

What has been the hardest part of going to school here? When I first came here, the biggest challenge was being on my own on a different continent so far away from my family. Trying to adapt to this place, trying to make friends and getting to know places was challenging at first.

It was also a struggle for me to find accommodations here because I didn’t want to live on campus. I was posting on Facebook groups and looking all over and I only had one month to find where to live. It’s hard when you’re far away and don’t have anyone to talk to. Croatia is part of Balkans, so I went to a Balkan community and and told them 'I’m from Croatia can you help me I don’t have anyone here.' They helped me out a bit so that was helpful to find people I could relate to.

What are you hoping to get out of your exchange year in America? I would love to improve my English because I want to work on TV and become more confident in myself.

What advice do you have for other international students studying at Columbia? I’d say have the courage to try something new. Going out of your comfort zone can be very beneficial for the future. Columbia is a great college to experiment with art in any kind, and there are many student organizations and networking possibilities.

"...the biggest challenge is being on your own on a different continent so
far away."

Olga Savic

Name: Brian Lin

Year: Junior

From: Beijing, China

How did you find Columbia? I chose Chicago because my mom’s friend lives here. I graduated from high school in May of 2015, but my visa expired in June so I took a month to travel around and check out the universities in the states. The first college I went to was actually not Columbia, I went to College of DuPage [a community college in Chicago's western suburbs] first. My path was very different than students in China, because I did not take the SAT or anything. To go to College of DuPage all you need is a diploma. I was thinking about going to Los Angeles, but it’s so expensive so I checked out the rankings of film schools and Columbia [was ranked highly] and is close to where I was at College of DuPage.

Why did you want to study in America? I actually came to America for my senior year of high school in Arkansas. Then I was going to go to university in China but they rejected me because they didn’t accept my high school diploma.

What has been the hardest part of going to school here? It helped that I went to College of DuPage first so I had an idea of how college in America worked, but first semester I panicked because it was my first time being on my own. For incoming freshmen, I recommend they take the mandatory LAS classes first because those are easier to help you understand how this college works.

What advice do you have for other international students studying at Columbia? I want to tell the international freshmen to not be afraid to talk to anyone because no one is going to laugh at your accent. And make friends, and stop judging and start living. Oh, and another piece of advice: always go to Always.

"My path was very different
than students in China."

Brian Lin

Name: YIFAN (Ivan) Ye

Year: Sophomore

From: QuanZhou, China.

Why did you choose Columbia? I'm film major, and I found [in my research] that Columbia ranked [highly] for film schools.

Why did you want to go to school in America? Because the film industry develops well here, and many directors I admire are from America. That's why I chose to study film here.

What’s the best part about Columbia? I think the best part is that we have a good vibe for filmmaking. Everyone is willing to pursue art.

What has been the hardest adjustment or part of going to school here? It depends. Some people will say language or culture. But I don't feel much different than studying in China.

What advice do you have for other international students studying at Columbia? Be more outgoing. Sometimes it is not good to only hangout with friends from the same place.