Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) MSc International Human Resource student Noor E Ain Arfa is a long way from home. Even so, her love for travel has taught her to be independent and adaptable in a new culture.
Coming from Lahore, Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country, 25-year-old Ain was brought up in a conservative society.
“I came from a religious country which has many strict rules especially for the women. I have a very strict of code of conduct which I have to follow. If I go beyond that, I will not be able to fit in the society,” she said.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
In her perspective, the best thing about travelling and studying abroad is that she learned who she was at the end of the day, not who her family or society made her out to be.
She said: “When I came to Sheffield, I had the freedom to express myself. I had control over the way I wanted to dress, to talk, and the way I wanted to communicate with people. There were no restrictions.”
Her classmates and friends are a melting pot of ethnicities from various countries: United States of America, Jordan, Nigeria, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, India and more.
“In the University, discrimination is hardly noticeable because international students are a common sight. But in the city, I have met people who judge me based on where I’m from, and I’ve felt as if I don’t belong here,” she said.
While studying in Sheffield, Ain realised that some locals had a preconception about her origin and culture.
“When I tell people that I’m from Pakistan, they often have the impression that I am strict in terms of my religion and practices. But when they get to know me, they begin to understand that I’m completely different from what they heard from news, or any other medium,” she said.
Among students, social integration can also be a problem. Some students prefer to stay with people of their own culture and it is really hard to mix in with them, Ain added.
“I am lucky to have met people who do not speak my language, have no clue about my culture and yet are still willing to help me out,” said Ain, a dyslexic student.
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
“Don’t be judgmental on something that you don’t really understand. Not every person is the same. So, you cannot judge anyone by the way they talk, their appearances, or where they’re from.”
“Learn to open yourself, learn to explore,” Ain said to all international students.
International students should learn more about other cultures, and what the other people are like. There is no harm in trying because it helps build your character. Besides, it’s important as well to learn to be independent.
-Story by Hon Chee Seong
-Photo by Josephine Chua