Photo by Sherry Mei

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

International students have high hopes when they enroll in a university in the United States. With these new experiences come new challenges; among these challenges are food housing costs. For students at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, international students must think about these challenges.

Per UW-System policy, all non-veteran, unmarried freshman and sophomore students under 20 years of age, unless living with a parent or legal guardian, must live in the residence halls and participate in a university meal plan. This lack of opportunity has caused many international students to turn to the residence halls and cafeterias at UWS.

Though international students did not choose to live in the residence halls, there are several advantages. One of the biggest advantages is the time it takes to get to class. At a minimum, it only takes three minutes to get from the nearest dorms on campus to any academic building; at maximum, only fifteen minutes.

Nhi Nguyen, a Vietnamese student, said, “It allows me to get where I need to go quickly, so I could be in class on time or even early.” By living on campus, international students do not need to buy a vehicle. “It would be hard and expensive for us [international students], especially for a new freshman, to buy a car here. Also, not many of us knew how to drive when we were in our country, so it’s also less work because we don’t have to learn how to drive and get a driver’s license just because we want to go out,” said Nguyen.

Student residences also help students’ social lives. Residence halls place international students in the middle of a vibrant campus life and within arm’s reach of numerous fellow students. They can meet not only their roommates, but also students from the same country, from different countries, and from the United States to make new friends.

“Living in the dorm is also a way for me to keep a good relationship with my friends. Because we live close to each other, I could always visit them whenever I want,” said Nguyen.

Living in a residence hall does have its drawbacks, however. Space and privacy are often at a premium. While international students enjoy spending time with pers, it can be frustrating when they need their own time. Bathrooms and kitchens are often communal, which means international students might need to fight for shower and cooking space.
When international students are no longer restricted by the residence hall rule, most international students still choose to live on the UW-Superior campus. The biggest reasons for this are time and money. Off-campus housing means arranging and paying for internet services, washing and drying machines, furniture, and utilities like water and heat. Being in a different country can make it difficult for international students to understand how to arrange these services.

Regarding food, international students make different decisions. For those who dine in school, the university’s meal plan offers great convenience. For example, students to not have to worry about cooking or where to eat; they also do not have to shop for groceries, saving time and money.

The cafeteria at UW-Superior also provides various choices for international students. Jeffrey Spangenberg, Food Service Director at UWS, said “we have a very strong food service program. We have four food stations in our café with a salad bar and deli sandwich bar with desert options. We are running menus on a four-week cycle in each of the four food stations in our café. This gives the students a variety of choices.”

While some students prefer the school’s café, other international students, like Kurumi Maeta (above) from Japan, stick to their own cooking plan. “I can just cook any food I want every day. Sometimes, when I really crave for a specific kind of food, I can just buy the materials from the market and make it by myself. Cooking is also an enjoyable process for me,” said Maeta.

Additionally, students do not have to worry about the “money” in the meal plan. At the end of each semester, students try to spend all of the money on their meal plan cards so that it does not go to waste. Maeta said, “I just don’t prefer doing it if I keep my meal plan. I want to spend the exact amount of money I need to. Also, cooking usually saves my money.”

International students may occasionally feel confused, unsure, and uncomfortable in the United States, especially when they have just entered a new environment. Despite difficulties, they still put effort into and will continue to overcome obstacles.