International students share their stories


Tatiana Corbette stands on an overlook in a village in Dominica called Scotts Head. Photo contributed by Tatiana Corbette.

For some college graduates or current college students, thinking back to freshman year may bring back exciting but nerve-racking memories, since they were immersed in a new community, a new home and a new chapter in life. For international students, adapting to the American college lifestyle and making this university their home away from home may take more time and commitment.

“We have a large Caribbean diversity here, so [MSU is] kind of like a home away from home, because we have people here who feel the same way that I do when it comes to missing home, and who comes from the same culture that I come from,” Tatiana Corbette, psychology senior, said.

Corbette’s home country, Dominica, or ‘The Land of 365 Rivers,’ is a Caribbean island with a population of about 72,000 people.

“It’s small, but it’s doable for me because I’m accustomed to it. I love it. It’s home. Home is where the heart is, and [I love] just being able to wake up in the morning, and from my room, I can see the beach. I can see the ocean. I can see mountains. I can hear birds chirping. It’s just paradise to me,” Corbette said.

Annisha Aaron, English senior, is also from Dominica, which is nicknamed ‘The Nature Isle of the Caribbean.’

“Before I came to Wichita Falls, I landed in New York. I stayed in New York for a week or two, so it didn’t really hit me that I was away; it still felt like a vacation. When we came to Texas and Wichita Falls, I was very overwhelmed, because it was so different. The grass was dry. It was getting into autumn, so everything was changing colors. That was a big difference for me because I’m used to bright greens, forests, and everything is just brown [here],” Aaron said.

Annisha Aaron gazes out at the water in her home country, Dominica. Aaron said, “I lived on the beach area, so there I open my back door, and there’s a beach right there. I miss that. I miss the freeness. You feel a little bit more free because it’s so small, and I feel like up here, sometimes my mind is on things like crimes and abduction and that kind of thing. I wouldn’t really think of that at home.” Photo contributed by Annisha Aaron.

While Aaron’s first impression of Wichita Falls was the lack of color on a Texas fall day, other students noticed the friendly, welcoming atmosphere on campus. Kishelle Licorish, mathematics senior, is from Grenada, a Caribbean country with a population of 111,454 people.

“My other times in America, I’ve gone to places like New York and New Jersey, and these cities are very much so more fast-paced than Wichita Falls. You have subways and all of these kinds of things, so originally coming across to Wichita Falls, I thought it was going to be a bit more fast-paced feeling, but then I saw it’s more calm and community-based,” Licorish said. “It sort of reminded me of home, since it’s more quiet, and you aren’t constantly hearing trains passing.”

Licorish and Aaron both expressed gratitude toward the Caribbean Students Organization for helping international students get oriented and answering any questions new students have about the school. For Aaron, the diversity on campus was something else to get used to.

“I’m not only with Caribbean people. It’s a bunch of other people, so [I am] kind of adapting to that, differences in different people. Back home I’m used to even if I speak broken English or with my accent, no one picks it up. When you’re here, you always have to kind of morph it a little bit to fit in, so that was a little hard,” Aaron said.

Corbette said she was friends with her roommate for ten years prior to attending MSU, so they immediately hit it off when she arrived. Corbette said she was glad to have the friendships that she made, and it wasn’t too hard for her to adjust, despite a negative encounter she had during her first week.

“I was walking with my roommate, and then this guy drove by, and they literally called us the N-word. That was my first week, so I was just like ‘Oh okay,’ but I didn’t let that deter me. I was just kind of still getting used to everything,” Corbette said. 

One other challenge Corbette faced during her freshman year at MSU was hearing about a hurricane that hit Dominica a few weeks after she left for college.

“It really devastated the island, so it was just hard being away from home because you have your family and friends who are going through a hard time back home, and you just left, and your home is in shambles,” Corbette said.

Another international student, Rodrigo Quezada, finance junior, is from Guatemala. Quezada applied to colleges in America with the intention of playing soccer. After being accepted at MSU, Quezada tried out for the soccer team, but the team was already full for the season. He considered transferring to another university, but after a couple of months, MSU started to grow on him. He made friends, got involved with the Catholic Campus Ministry, and later joined the cycling team.

“They just gave me a bike, and I started with the cycling team, and they gave me shoes and then clothes, and now [I’ve been] a part of the cycling team since my freshman year. I couldn’t make it with the soccer team, but then I moved forward, and I was like ‘Okay,’ and now I’m doing cycling for MSU,” Quezada said.

Adam Conway
Adam Conway plays in his native Ireland’s national team jersey. (Adam Conway)

Adam Conway, kinesiology junior from Waterford, Ireland, also found a home at MSU through its athletics. For him, it was his soccer teammates who helped him feel at home.

“Firstly, I would say that since the day I came here it felt like a home away from home. When I met my teammates, they wanted to get to know me straight away and make me fit in,” Conway said.

Quezada’s moving process was memorable because the man who picked him up from the airport was 30 minutes late.

“It was kind of hard for me because I moved during the summer, so I was expecting something huge, but when I moved, there was this guy waiting for me in the airport from MSU. I have bad luck because every time I go to a new country or travel, and someone has to pick me up, they always arrive late,” Quezada said. “I was waiting in the airport, but I’m very scared because you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know the city.”

After arriving on campus, Quezada’s first week continued to surprise him.

“He told me, ‘Hey, we’re going to Walmart. You just leave your stuff in the dorm, and we’ll go to Walmart.’ I was like, ‘Why do I need to go to Walmart? I bought a meal plan. I don’t need to buy stuff,’ and he was like, ‘No you need to go buy pens, and blankets, and pillows,’ and I was like, ‘I thought MSU provides all that stuff.’ I was expecting a room set up. When I came here, no room, no pillows, nothing. I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’” Quezada said.

Quezada began to figure out all the little things that come with being a first-year student like where to get a campus ID card made and how to print on campus. He said he loved some things about America, but one part of Guatemala that Quezada said he refuses to let go of is the way he greets people.

Rodrigo Quezada takes in the view at his parents’ restaurant called La Cabaña De Don Robert, which is located in the mountains of Tecpán, Chimaltenango in Guatemala. Quezada said, “I miss my parents’ business. They have a restaurant, so I work and get involved in that a lot. I talk to a lot of customers and meet people there, and that’s what I love to do.” Photo contributed by Rodrigo Quezada.

“I really like hugs, and we kiss a lot when we say hi to someone in Guatemala, so if you come to Guatemala, probably I’ll kiss your cheek. That’s kind of something hard [to get used to]. Here it’s just shaking hands, and no one hugs. When I came here, I was like ‘Oh I’m going to hug,’” Quezada said.

For Emily Ineson of Berkhamested, England, it was the inclusivity and diversity of the campus community that made her love her foreign university.

“I love MSU Texas, because it is incredibly inclusive and accepting of everyone, from a ll around the world. This creates an amazingly diverse community that thrives with so much uniqueness and individuality, because of the range that exists. It’s a place that makes everyone feel at home, yet special, Ineson said.

Trestelle Joseph, business management senior and international student from Dominica, said the culture was not the hardest thing for her to get used to about America.

“In the Caribbean, I feel like we’re very much open to American culture because we watch American shows all the time and order clothes from America all the time, but food in Wichita Falls is depressing. In the Caribbean, we have grown provisions, and we eat them every day, so that’s what I was used to, and here we don’t have them. You can’t get fresh meat here or fresh fish. You have to go all the way to Dallas, and I don’t have a car,” Joseph said.

Corbette said when she visits home in Dominica, she stocks up on her favorite food supplies from home, so she has a taste of home with her in Wichita Falls. She brings back local snacks, spices like nutmeg, some of her mom’s homemade food, and cacao, which she described as raw chocolate to make tea with. 

“You come up here, and you really have to adapt. You have to change your diet and stuff. You miss [food from home], but what can you do? You just have to adapt to it all,” Corbette said.

Quezada said although the food in America was different from Guatemala, he didn’t mind the change.

“Over there back home in Guatemala, everything is more fresh. Here everything is already [frozen]. You put it in the microwave and then done. You eat it, and it’s really nice. I like it. I love fries. I love burgers, pizza and all the frozen pizzas. I love everything, but over there it’s kind of different like for breakfast, what you have is eggs and beans and all this stuff. Everything is fresh made at the moment,” Quezada said.

COVID-19 precautions have made international travel difficult, leading some international students to go longer than they normally do without seeing their families. This has led Brazilian student Jean Muniz, finance and management information systems junior, to feel homesick despite enjoying the international experience.

“Well, it’s been pretty amazing to live in another country so far and study and play tennis, but to be honest, the last year or os has been tough for me because of COVID. I haven’t been able to go home since last Christmas, and I hope I can go back in Summer 2021,” Muniz said.

Tatiana Corbette poses in front of the flag of her home country, Dominica. Corbette said, “It’s always fun to tell people where I come from. I have American roommates, and I love to cook my Caribbean stuff for them, and they enjoy it. It’s fun to share my culture with other people.” Photo contributed by Tatiana Corbette.

Building a home away from home may cause some international students to miss America if they return to their home countries after graduation.

“If I stay here, definitely I would miss home because you always miss home, but also if I go home, I think there are certain things here that are more accessible compared to home since this is a developed country, and my country is a developing country. Certain things, I would definitely miss [about America]. Basically, it works either way. Some people tell you that when you move away from it, you miss it,” Licorish said. 

After she graduates in December, Joseph said she wants to get a job and then later pursue a master’s degree, although she has no plans set in stone for where she will live.

“I feel like if I’m here, I miss home, and if I go back, I’m going to miss it here, well certain things here, not everything,” Joseph said.

Corbette said she would love to go back home after graduation, but she doesn’t think she would be able to properly pursue her passion, psychology.

“I wouldn’t be able to get a good job that I really love doing in psychology back home, so I’m going to stay up here and try to get experience as much as possible, and then go back home, so I can bring back that [experience] home and practice, and contribute to my country because they’re the ones that helped me to come up here. America still has its possibilities, but home will always be home,” Corbette said.

Conway says the welcoming environment and high-quality facilities have made him never want to leave MSU, which is a feeling he claims every international student longs for.

“When it came to class, the teachers and advisors did all they could for me so I could succeed. Being at MSU and looking at how good our facilities are makes me want to stay here forever, and that’s something that every international student wants,” Conway said.