EDITOR’S NOTE: Starting school in a new country can be tough, but for many of Williamsport’s international students the culture shock is often replaced by a strong sense of community. Follow along with On the PULSE during our week-long series to discover the unique experiences of students who come here from across the globe.
Harshita Bandhu, endearing in her bright-eyed, freshman enthusiasm for Lycoming College, is one of 26 Mauritian students on campus.
With an international student population of 55, Lycoming can credit this overwhelming percentage to the ever-powerful word-of-mouth. Marleni Feinstein, Lycoming’s International Student Recruiter and Adviser, says the influx began five years ago after one student from Mauritius, a small island in The Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, came to the school, loved it, and quickly spread the word.
Bandhu was convinced to come by her cousin, who also attends school at Lycoming. Even though she had never been to the United States before, she felt excited to apply after hearing about Lycoming’s intimate class sizes and strong financial aid. Now, armed with more knowledge and new friends during her second semester, Bandhu expresses how happy she is with her choice.
“I was nervous and stressed about (coming) because this is the first time you’re going to be, like, literally halfway across the whole world, the whole globe, even from your home! But when I came here, everyone was so welcoming and friendly, that it didn’t feel like I was away from home. Then we have an international advisor like Mrs. Feinstein. She’s very motherly. And all my friends. Everyone makes me feel so included that I don’t feel like I don’t belong here. It’s like home away from home.”
Though she also lived in India for a short time, Bandhu, an Actuarial Science and Mathematics major, has called Mauritius home for the majority of her life. While English is the island’s official language, Harshita’s first language is Creole, their mother-tongue. She can also speak French and Hindi. She explains that while her grade-school teachers usually taught concepts in French and Creole, their Cambridge curriculum required students to have a good grasp on English as well. So when Harshita came to Lycoming, she “got used to (speaking English) very easily.”
Although she’s only been on campus for a short time, Bandhu has already dove head-first into many opportunities Lycoming College and the city of Williamsport have to offer. She is involved with the International Student Union, and has volunteered for Thrive International, translating documents from English to French.
She works at Jack’s Corner, a campus dining option, as well as for the school’s engagement suite as a student manager. This fall, she helped decorate the dining hall for the Super Bowl. When asked if she had ever heard of the Super Bowl before coming to the U.S., she shakes her head ‘no.’
“Back at home, football and soccer are different,” she says. “So it was kind of confusing for me when I came here. But yeah, it was my first time hearing about the Super Bowl. And I sat with my friends, watched it. With the excitement that was over there, I felt very interested.”
It is genuinely difficult for Bandhu to come up with anything negative to say about Williamsport. Originally, she was not thrilled over the lack of Indian cuisine, but even that issue has been solved by the new restaurant on West Third Street, Laziza Phakwan, which she says is delicious.
She stays connected to her culture by hanging out with fellow Mauritian students and celebrating cultural holidays with the International Student Union.When asked if she would change anything about Lycoming College, she shakes her head and smiles.
“I have no idea,” she says, shrugging. “Because I really find everything so good over here; I don’t want to change anything! . . . It feels like I came over here and I didn’t lose my roots.”