From Where I Sit: Hamilton’s international perspectives

By Hristina Mangelova ’16

“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need  twelve hugs a day for growth.”
Virginia Satir

Dear international first years,

By this time you have probably heard “welcome to Hamilton” a ton, so I won’t repeat it. Instead, I want to hug each one of you because you are all such amazing, brave and strong people! I wish someone hugged me more last year—but then again, this taught me how to hug myself. Hopefully, by the end of my letter I will have convinced you that you’ll do your readings faster, find great friends, be able to state your opinion in class discussion without blanking out on words every other sentence, feel happier, get used to the party scene or whatever else that bothers you now will get better.

During my first semester at Hamilton, I took Introduction to Political Theory with Professor Martin. I loved that class but I felt like the readings were slowly killing me. Never before had I read Plato’s original texts even in Bulgarian (my native language), not to mention English. It took me five hours to read 10 pages… As for my first paper, it took me many days, two all-nighters, more hours in the library than I would like to admit and two appointments with Professor Barbara Britt-Hysell (the director of the ESOL program). When I turned in that paper, oh man, words can’t begin to describe how happy I was! That is not to say that your experience will be the same. On the contrary, it is likely that you are a faster and better writer than I was.

My experience at Hamilton so far has taught me that everyone’s experience is different (very clever, I know). Some adapt to the coursework faster, others slower but, trust me on this one. You can always rely on the tutors and Professor Hysell (aka “the mother of international students”) to help you out. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a reading assignment you can’t understand, a paper you can’t finish or if you just want to have a second pair of eyes to look through your essay. The ESOL department is located in Buttrick (the small house next to Commons where the President is). Just go there and make an appointment!

Another great resource you can use is the International Student Association. There you can meet international upperclassmen or get involved with the organization of events—our most recent event was the Mid-Autumn Festival and this Friday we’ll participate in the International Food & Culture Festival. In early October, we will have a guest-speaker, Professor Trenkov-Wermuth of the Government department, who was an international student and a Hamilton alum! Other things you can look forward to are a special panel session with a representative of the Career Center and international movie screening! We meet every Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Days-Massolo Center. You can even bring your American friends if they are interested! Everyone’s welcome!

There are so many other random things I can say about being an international student like making American friends because they will help you immerse into the culture; join clubs, meet people; ask your professors to repeat whatever it is that you can’t understand; experiment with the food in the dining halls (my personal favorite is any kind of rice or beans with marinara sauce, feta cheese and some veggies on the side); play American board games (Apples to Apples) and this will help you understand their sense of humor. It’s OK to feel sad, but don’t hold it in trying to be strong. Instead, talk to somebody! If you don’t feel like sharing with a professor or a friend, go to the Counseling Center. The counselors are awesome and will listen to your blabbing without peeking at their phones every other minute. My list is too long so I will stop here.

Ultimately, trust yourself that you can do this! You’ve come such a long way already, things will only get better from now on. You are at Hamilton for a reason, and as important as education is, you being happy is more important! Go with your gut, cut yourself some slack and in the meantime have fun!

P.S. Don’t forget to get your daily dose of hugs! It makes a difference.

“From Where I Sit” is a column dedicated to the international voices of Hamilton’s campus.  If you are an international student and are interested in contributing a column, contact Barbara Britt-Hysell (bbritthy@hamilton.edu).


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