What it’s like to be an exchange student at UConn

(Photo via writer)

Where should I start? When I first arrived at UConn in August 2017, I was surprised because the surroundings did not differ so much from home (I’m from the Black Forest in Germany). Maybe that was the reason why I immediately felt comfortable here and accepted this place as my new home. I asked my dear friend Sophia Lee, a senior accounting major from Taiwan, what she liked best about the campus and she also agreed that the atmosphere is what appeals to her the most.

“I like the forest around, the dry weather and that it is not very crowded here. It is very different from home in Taiwan, our weather is very humid and Taipei city is always busy,” Lee said.

She was also surprised about the welcoming manner of the people here. “Before I came here, I honestly thought that I would be confronted with a lot of racism but that was not the case. Everyone was friendly to me and I really appreciate that,” Lee explained. I can only agree with that. Coming from a country where people are more stiff, the friendliness and openness here at UConn made it easy to feel at ease here. The greetings like “Have a beautiful day” and “Stay warm” from the bus drivers always put a smile on my face.

Unlike many Europeans, I didn’t think of America as the ultimate place to be before coming here, but was still shocked when I realized how many things don’t work well in this country. Being from Europe, I had a big problem with the less developed public transportation system, especially when you don’t have access to a car all the time. It is also not easy for me to understand how people here do not have proper access to good health care or how hundreds of homeless people in Los Angeles can live in tents on the sidewalk without the government helping them.

Besides these issues, I can definitely confirm positive stereotypes about the U.S. as well. It is the country of many possibilities, especially at UConn. I feel like there is a niche for everyone and that talent is encouraged. As a person and a student, I’ve never been more acknowledged than I am here and I’m truly thankful for that experience. At this point, I also want to highlight the exchange student program, which really does a good job and offers help at any time. Overall, I really felt people care about me here and I always felt safe on this beautiful campus. I think the aspect you can be most proud of when living in the U.S.  is how diverse this country is in terms of landscapes. I mean, you have everything here: beaches, hiking trails, deserts, mountains – it is a unique gift and you should embrace it more (and maybe make your president aware of it as well).

 (Photo via writer)

(Photo via writer)

For me, coming to UConn was the best decision I could have made. I wasn’t in the best place before I came, my mental health was unstable and I desperately needed a change. In these past months, my way of thinking changed to a more positive one. I started to appreciate my home in Germany a lot – which was really necessary – I realized how much I matter to people and that I can be utterly thankful for the friendships I have back home. But most importantly, I started to love myself. So, I hereby speak to every person who feels stuck in life and needs a change of scene: Go study abroad! It is an experience you will never forget and it truly changes you in good ways. To my roommates, international friends, club members, professors and the Daily Campus, who gives this little girl from Germany a voice in their paper, thank you for sharing this journey with me! I will never forget a single one of you. UConn and all its members will always have a special place in my heart. Auf Wiedersehen!


Aysel Kelleci is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at aysel.kelleci@uconn.edu