Lan Le
Photo by Sherry Mei

Editor’s note: This is part one in a five part series surrounding the life of international students on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

As experiencing foreign nations and different cultures becomes a new allure for people, studying abroad is becoming an increasingly global phenomenon. Not only do American students go and explore other countries, students from across the world come to the United States to experience American culture.

Due to the higher quality education, open labor market, and welcoming culture, the United States has become one of the top destinations for international students, boasting around 1.1 million of the 4.6 million enrolled worldwide.

The University of Wisconsin – Superior, which enrolls over 2,600 students, prides itself on hosting around 300 international students.

While many people can assume the happiness of international students as they are accepted at U.S. universities, only international students are aware of the obstacles that they will experience. One of the most pressing of these issues is transportation.

Taking a flight to the United States is one of the first difficulties that international students will come across. Many flights are at least 12 hours, feeling endless to many students as they approach their final stop. While the flight is a short-term concern for many students, transportation once arriving to campus presents itself as a much larger problem.

Despite being a small campus, students who attend UW-Superior are often a good distance from places they may need to be. Compared to domestic students, international students are much less likely to own a car. Taking into consideration the challenge that some students may have getting around, UW-Superior has partnered with the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) to provide free busing for students with a proof of ID. Another transportation option for students is to call a taxi or use ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft.

Although these two options are very practical, many international students, like Junsang Lee from South Korea, prefer the option of asking their friends for a ride. “Even though the school provides me with an option to ride the city bus for free, it takes way longer to go to Walmart, Super One, or the mall than if I just drove there,” said Lee. “Calling an Uber or taxi is also an option, but it is a financial toll for me to call Uber every single time I want to go somewhere.”

Riding with friends not only gives international students a chance to save money and time, but it also provides them with extra time to hang out with their friends. “[Riding together was] how I became closer to my best friend,” said Lee.

Alternatively, there are also a portion of international students who have access to their own cars. Lan Le, from Vietnam, is one of them. By owning a car, he can take advantage of more job opportunities, freedom, and comfort. “I think one of the advantages of having a car as an international student is that you get the freedom to travel. Normally, if you don’t have a car, you have to depend on public transportation. Having a car allows you to go anywhere, anytime, that you want,” said Le.

International students who own cars are faced with a number of challenges. The biggest of these is the cost of owning everything – the price of the car itself, gasoline, insurance, repairs, etc. Financial problems are one of the biggest concerns.

It is also difficult to find someone to take care of a vehicle during long breaks. Many students return from long vacations to damages on their car, leading to an increased financial burden.

Transportation is often taken for granted, and for international students it requires more time and effort to accommodate and overcome difficulties. Despite these challenges, these students will continue to work through the obstacles they face without giving up.