Chatham University has been an international campus since the 1930s. Today Chatham has 180 students from several countries mostly from Saudi Arabia, China, and Canada. International students are involved in different programs at Chatham including the English language program, graduate, and undergraduate studies, in addition to one semester or full year programs.
International students at Chatham have different experiences living away from home even though they live on the same campus.
“It’s an amazing but challenging experience. One of the biggest challenges I’ve been facing is the cold winter. I’ve lived in a tropical country all my life and have never experienced this type of cold,” said Silvia Alejandra, an exchange student from Honduras. “The culture shock of being in a new country can be overwhelming, but it’s an amazing experience to get to meet new people and immerse yourself in a new culture,” she added.
For Daniella Bauer who is studying English language, the challenge is different.
“The biggest challenge was to deal with my loss of professional identity and activities. I used to be very active at work and studies in Brazil,” said Bauer. “Other challenges for Brazilians are the interpersonal relationships. We like make connections and know about peoples’ lives and customs. At Chatham, I meet people from many countries, and the teachers as well, made me feel very connected and welcome,” she added.
“Well I guess the only challenge I’m facing right now is the fact that I’m not allowed to work off campus and so can’t really fund my education until I get a job after graduation,” said Komal Kooduvalli, a graduate student from India. “Honestly, I love Pittsburgh. It’s become my home now, and I love the people, place, and culture.”
Kooduvalli continued, “I think Chatham has been instrumental every step of the way in helping me adjust including helping me get proper on-campus accommodation and everything. My teachers are fantastic and always ready to help, and friends support me emotionally and have become my family here.”
For May Alrawaqi, an English language student originally from Saudi Arabia, dealing with weather is very sensitive.
“Living in Pittsburgh is so challenging during the winter, especially when it snows. Since I have a child, I have to skip classes whenever it gets so cold in order to take care of him. Not to mention getting cold and sick,” said Alrawaqi. “Although I like Chatham university and feel very comfortable studying here, I have to leave it next year. I am seeking a masters degree in mathematics, but this major isn’t available at Chatham,” she added.
Many international students share the the worry about their kids and their family members living at home.
“My greatest challenge is the separation with my family. I miss and worry about my daughter, my husband, and my parents,” said Wenju Chen, a graduate Nursing student from China. “Then the language barrier comes next. Sometimes, I feel lost when I talk with people here,” she added.
Lama Alrwais, who also has a child, said,”being a mother and a student is hard. I have late classes at Chatham, and after going home I have to take care of my baby and cook dinner for my family. By the end of the day I don’t have the energy to do school work.”
Alrwais is Saudi Arabian, and currently studying English at Chatham.
“The language is so different from mine. I feel like my simple vocabulary does not convey my ideas and thoughts to people and teachers,” she added.
At Chatham, the Office of International Affairs tries to help students adapt to the new environment by providing pre-class orientations and workshops through the fall and the spring semesters. The workshops introduce international students to U.S. culture and its academic system, and they help students determine their future careers.