Priya Jhaveri misses her dog.
Jhaveri never spent one night without the black, furry beast lying across her blue, polka-dotted comforter, tickling her toes. But for the past two years, Jhaveri has been separated from her dog, family and home.
Unlike most students who commute four to five hours for their education, Jhaveri braved the fifteen-hour flight from Hong Kong to State College, Pennsylvania to attend college. Now a junior at Penn State, Jhaveri decided to attend a university internationally, leaving behind the comforts of her childhood.
According to the Institute of International Education, the number of international students in the U.S. is at an all-time high, and in turn; hundreds of thousands of American natives are opting to spend more than only a semester abroad.
Whether it is for the entirety of one’s college career or only one year, the decision to study abroad for an extended period of time is definitive and impacting.
“Most people don’t stay in Hong Kong to go to college, so it was always an unsaid thing in my family that I would spend four years abroad,” Jhaveri said. “But, I’ve never gotten used to being so far away and get homesick a lot.”
Jhaveri said the hardest part about being time zones away from what she grew up around was she couldn’t visit her friends or family on weekends, nor could they stay with her.
“I only go home during Christmas and summer break, but during Thanksgiving and Spring break, when most of my friends go home, I either have to rely on friends here to make plans with or just hang out in State College…it sucks,” Jhaveri said, adding, “Even though I wish I could fly home for just a week, it’s way too expensive to do that.”
“The legal drinking age is only 18 there too…and there are real clubs,” she added with a slightly resentful tone.
Anup Shivakumar, a student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), said he also misses home and especially his mom’s cooking. However, he emphasized he is willing to be on the other side of the world for the majority of the year, because of the experiences he has had studying in America.
After growing up in Dubai, Shivakumar admitted to the difficulty in adjusting to certain aspects of attending UIUC. But he had no difficulty in appreciating the freedom and adventure of being abroad, he said.
Approaching his senior year, Shivakumar said during school holidays, when he can’t go home, he makes use of his free time traveling around the country. In the past year alone, he has been to Miami, Las Vegas and New York.
“If I were going to school back home then I would never travel this much or get to be as wild, so I love it,” he said grinning from ear to ear. “I usually go with a lot of the other international students because they are looking for stuff to do too.”