Nathalie Rivera on getting out of her comfort zone at University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
“It has been a surreal experience that has allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and get familiar with a new culture and traditions.”
The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith is located in the US state of Arkansas and it is a four-year, public university. With just 7,000 students and small class sizes, international students at UAFS have plenty of opportunities to get to know their professors and other students.
Here is the SchoolApply interview with Nathalie Rivera, an overseas student from Honduras about to begin her second year at UAFS.
University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
Location: Fort Smith, Arkansas (US)
Student Name: Nathalie Rivera
Favorite class: Anything that has to do with science – so with my current classes, I have to go with physics.
Favorite school event: Any event hosted by the Office of International Relations! These events bring all the international students together and allow us to share our college experiences.
Five words to describe University of Arkansas – Fort Smith: Homey, Comfortable, Affordable, Safe and Calm
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Nathalie Rivera and I’m 18 years old, about to start my sophomore year at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. I am from Honduras, a small country in the heart of Central America. I have lived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras my whole life, but have traveled around the world for holidays.
What were your school experiences like before university?
I attended a small school in Honduras from preschool until high school graduation – my class was made up of only 31 students! I was used to a small and strict school environment before coming to college.
How did you hear about University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and what made you decide to study in the US?
I felt like the US had better opportunities in the field that I want to major in and fortunately, my parents were very supportive of my decision and agreed it was the best and safest option. I heard about UAFS from my advisor back in Honduras. My parents and I really liked that it wasn’t a big school because I’ve always had trouble adapting to an environment with too many unfamiliar faces.
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Did you have any problems adjusting to life in a new country and university?
Ever since I was little, I have been very shy and quiet until I have familiarized myself and become comfortable with a new environment. I was very anxious and homesick for the first few weeks at UAFS, but I ultimately decided I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I decided to start conversations with people so that I could make new friends that I could count on, especially because I was far away from home.
What were your first few days in UAFS like?
I loved that the campus was not too big. The community was very welcoming and friendly; we even went on a tour around the city and tried the food at different restaurants around town. I felt that my experience was going to be a big change from what I was used to. I loved my resident hall –- I had a big room all to myself. But, I had a hard time before my first class, because my mom had just left after dropping me to school and settling me in, and I was crying my eyes out.
What degree are you pursuing and why?
Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Materials. My parents are both engineers so I’ve basically known a little bit about the field all of my life.
Have you had a job while studying?
I work at the Office of International Relations and that allows me to get involved with and organize different activities every month that reflect each culture present at UAFS.
What has your academic and social experience been like as an international student at UAFS?
It has been a surreal experience that has allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and get familiar with a new culture and traditions. Fort Smith is the second largest city in Arkansas with plenty of restaurants, so for fun I usually go out to eat with my friends or go shopping or exploring around the city. The members of the on-campus ministries are really helpful and friendly, and they really get involved with the international community and make friends with the new students.
How has studying abroad changed you? How has UAFS prepared you for life after college?
It has made me a more independent and confident person and I now have a greater appreciation for everything my family has done for me and the friendships that I’ve formed for life. It has also allowed me to meet new people from different backgrounds, connect with them and form new friendships. I have much more confidence in myself and I have realized that I am ready to start making a life for myself.
What would you say to international students who are considering studying at UAFS?
I would say that if they are used to a very close-knit and small environment, they should seriously consider UAFS as the school focuses on helping students from different backgrounds get accustomed to their new environment. At UAFS, students experience character growth and development and become more independent without forgetting their roots and where they come from.
If you want to find out more about University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, just click on its SchoolApply profile page and get started with your application now!
About the Author: Muneeza Kizilbash grew up in the United States and Pakistan and was active in her university’s International Student Council. Now settled in Dubai, she loves to inform, educate and entertain her readers through her writing.