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The Antelope

The international student experience: the athlete perspective


Out of UNK’s student population, 356 are international students, or roughly 6% of the entire student body. That percentage decreases further within the student athlete population.

Myrzaiym “Mia” Sherikulova and Jazmin Zamorano, juniors at UNK explain their student athlete experience as international students. 

“Things got more complicated closer to the end of my first semester, I started to get homesick when I first arrived,” Sherikulova said, who formerly was on the UNK tennis team. “I did not have a really good relationship with food because it is different than my country.”

International students come to UNK in hopes of a better academic future. Just under a million students came to the U.S. to study at American universities and colleges this year. From this pool of students, 356 international students attended UNK. Agreements between universities abroad and UNK allow students to study in the U.S. temporarily to receive credit within their areas of study. 

“When students agree to come to the U.S., they don’t know where they are going,” Zamorano said, who is currently on the UNK tennis team, “That first semester for me was great but at the same time, I was homesick, I wanted to leave the U.S… no one told me I would suffer from depression and it was my first time. I didn’t know what was happening to me.”

International students face unique challenges when they study abroad. Culture shock, language barriers, homesickness and academic stress can all contribute to depression. International students face a shock with cultural differences when they experience a new language and cultural norms. Language barriers could lead to a struggle of communicating with their peers and professors, understanding academic material and navigating daily life. 

“Coming to the U.S. opened my eyes to seeing different things. In other countries, there is a certain way of how to do things like the way that everyone dresses,”  Zamorano said. 

The assistant director of the international department in 2021, Tracy Falconer represented the international students and would plan events to bring the international student population together. Their services include providing orientation activities for incoming international students, interpret and advise on immigration regulations, issuing official documents and letters, maintaining records and advising on life and customs in the U.S. Currently, the UNK International Student Services office is one office alone, located in West Center. After Falconer’s departure from UNK, the interactivity with international students dwindled. 

Zamorano explained her experience learning about racism and discrimination as a topic learned from friends and teammates. 

“I feel like when I came here, it was really good for me, because my eyes were very closed,” said Zamorano. 

Among cultural differences, language barriers, academic pressure and financial stress, transportation for international students is another barrier they face. Sherikulova, Zamorano and other international students struggle daily because they do not have a mode of transportation. They face financial challenges, including the cost of tuition, housing, and living expenses and that stress can contribute to depression and anxiety. 

The prevalence of depression among international students is important and the story behind each student can have a significant impact on future international students seeking to attend UNK.  

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