What It’s Like Being 1000 Miles from Home: The Joys and Challenges of Living Far Away

By Ruth Ma, MSPH’24 in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics

Moving away from home as a graduate student is an exciting and daunting experience. Literally, the move to Rollins school took me nearly 10,000 miles away from my home. The experience is even more intense to start a new academic journey in a new country, full of joys and challenges.

One of the biggest challenges of being far away from home is the feeling of homesickness. When I was first here, I felt kind of a sense of loss and longing. I missed the comfort of my home, the native language, and the taste of my favorite hometown food. However, after talking with faculty, staff, and peers at Rollins, I got used to the new life soon. Rollins has a small and supportive environment, which can help students to build strong relationships with both faculty members and fellow students. Although I am good at reading and writing in English. At the beginning, I felt difficult to communicate with classmates. Professional development events, organization activities, and international student get-togethers offer a wonderful platform to communicate and know each other. People here are all kind and nice, and try to speak slowly and clearly to make me understand. Now, I can chat with friends fluently in English.

Another benefit of being a graduate student at Rollins is the personalized attention students receive from faculty members. Rollins has a low student-to-faculty ratio, which means that students have ample opportunities to interact with professors one-on-one. Faculty members are highly engaged in their students’ education and are always willing to help students with any questions or concerns they may have.

Living in Atlanta and studying at Rollins gives me the chance to explore new places, meet new people, and experience new cultures. Specifically, the culture here is wonderful. People are enthusiastic and willing to talk and share with others. I meet people from all over the world who have their own unique perspectives and experiences to share. 

Living far from home also offers me a sense of independence and autonomy that can be empowering. I overcame my shyness and improved my speaking English a lot. At the same time, I discovered the enthusiasm of myself that I never knew existed as I navigate this new environment. This gives me the opportunity to create a new identity for myself, free from the expectations and assumptions that have been placed on me in my hometown, a stern professional doctor.

Another benefit of living far from home is the chance to expand my social and professional networks. The most interesting research that I have been eager to do is the application of math to medicine. This can help me to broaden my own understanding of the world and potentially open up new opportunities for my personal and professional growth.

Finally, I have to say Atlanta is my favorite city so far. I really like the weather here. It is very comfortable, not too dry or too cold.

Ultimately, being 1000 miles from home as a graduate student at Rollins can be both challenging and rewarding. While the distance may be great, the rewards of stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing the unknown can be even greater.

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