What it’s like to be an international student at UNCA


Linge Steenkamp

Beatrice Faureng with her country’s flag in her tennis uniform.

Hayden Bailey, [email protected], Assistant Arts & Features Editor

One thing Eden Parsons, Beatrice Faureng and Bronte Trotman all have in common? They are all international students.

Beatrice Faureng, 21, grew up in Oslo, Norway where saying “hello, how are you?” to people in the grocery store could be considered weird and going to class at your university isn’t required. 

Faureng studied for 6 months at the University of Oslo before coming to the United States where she is currently a junior double majoring in business management and political science. 

“I came in January of 2021. I was supposed to come in August, 6 months before, but it was postponed because of COVID,” she said. 

Multiple things drew her to UNC Asheville, such as the scenery of Western North Carolina and the closeness of the city. Ultimately, it was the tennis team that drew her in. 

“A coach I knew, knew the coach here so I came on a visit. Most of all, it was because of the tennis coach and the tennis program that stood out to me,” Faureng said. 

She said when she first came here, the tennis team was a big comfort for her.

“In the beginning we were only allowed to be with the tennis team because of COVID so not being allowed to meet new people was hard,” Faureng said. 

She said as time goes by and COVID goes away, it has become a lot easier meeting new friends, getting to know the faculty and expanding her network. 

“I feel a lot more at home here now two years into the program compared to when I came,” Faureng said.

She said another big support for her has been her international host family. 

“That has really helped, just going to Sunday dinner at their house or just meeting people outside the school helps pop the bubble and make you feel like ‘I’m at home here, I’m not only a student, this is my life now’. That’s been very nice,” the tennis player said. 

While her host family wasn’t assigned to her through UNCA, she does have two mentors through the university. 

“One is the Leaders for Leaders program through the athletic program and I have a mentor through the management department,” she said. 

Faureng said overall, her experience here has been very good, filled with a lot of new things: doing stuff for the first time, seeing stuff for the first time and learning a lot. 

“Everything is different. It is intimidating at first and can be scary, you feel a bit out of place,” she said. 

Faureng said the university system here and back home are very different with how classes are scheduled, how you are expected to be present for class meetings and how you speak to professors. 

“There is no attendance and the classes are a lot bigger. Your professor doesn’t know your name. You’re just a face in a big lecture hall and you can come and go like you want. Nobody is keeping you accountable,” she said. 

Faureng said even though at first, it was a little annoying to have to go to class here, she has come to enjoy it. 

“It’s like a help on the way, like they care about you here. You have that relationship with the faculty, which is very nice,” she said. 

Faureng said back in Norway, depending on the program, it’s possible to have no homework or assignments. 

“The program I did was political science. You had one final exam at the end of the semester and that was your whole grade,” she said. 

Faureng said it’s so different compared to here where things like attendance, class participation and homework count toward your final grade. 

“At the University of Oslo they encourage you to make study groups, which is a good thing. Everybody forms a study group of like, four or five people that are in the same subjects as you and you meet 1-3 times a week to go through the material,” she said. 

Faureng said you make your own plan to get through the textbook so you’ve gone through the material at the end of the year when you have your exam. 

“It’s quite different. The only positive thing, in my opinion, with Norway, is you have to learn to be disciplined and nobody is checking on you,” she said. 

Faureng said the study groups are a very good thing because she thinks it’s good to study with people. 

“There is always stuff you can learn from other people, other points of view and different ways of learning. Maybe that’s what UNCA could do, have study groups or encourage people to have a set of five people that you meet and work through the material with,” the tennis player said.

Faureng said while she feels excited to be here and very grateful, there have been some things she has had to adjust to. 

“I think the hardest thing is the distance, being away from home and that it’s so far away. Sometimes your roommate can just drive back home over the weekend and then you’re like, ‘I wish I could do that’,” she said. 

Faureng said another difficulty has been understanding the cultural differences because most of the people she meets here have grown up in a different environment with different cultural norms and beliefs. 

“Adjusting to meeting people different from you can be hard but it’s also something where I think you learn more about yourself, about others and it widens your perspective. It was hard in the beginning and it was also something I was nervous for. Now that I’ve learned more about it, I’m very grateful for it,” she said. 

Faureng said in Norway, if you go to the grocery store, it’s not the norm to talk to people or if you’re on the bus, you never sit beside other people. 

“It’s a more closed off culture. It’s not that we want to be rude, it’s just how the norms are. Coming here, people ask, ‘hey, how are you?’ when they walk past you and I’m like ‘oh, I’m good” and then they’ve already passed me before I’ve answered,” she said, laughing. 

Faureng said here it’s polite to greet people that way and engage in small talk but she wasn’t used to that and it has been an adjustment. 

“My mom came and visited me last semester and she was so surprised when I was at the grocery store I was like ‘have a good one’ to the people. If you ask somebody ‘hey, how are you’ at the grocery store back home, they will think you’re weird or be like ‘oh, I’m sorry, do I know you?’ Social cues like that are different,” she said. 


Eden Parsons hiking at Black Balsam Knob. (Isabel Abraham)

22-year-old Eden Parsons grew up in a city called Bristol in the United Kingdom where she could find golden syrup to do her comfort baking and would walk 20 minutes to a cafe. 

Parsons will be studying in Asheville for a year in the study abroad program. She has been here for almost three months, coming from the University of Sussex in Brighton. 

“I wanted to come to the U.S. because I’m a sociology major and I like people. I was just really fascinated by the idea of living in another country, making relationships, getting to know people and learning more about what it’s actually like to live in America,” she said. 

Parsons said in the United Kingdom, they watch so much American media but don’t know what it’s actually like to live here. 

“Also, I wanted to be able to eavesdrop and I can’t speak any other languages. Most people go to Europe and I was like, nope, I’m going to America so I can understand,” she said. 

Parsons specifically chose UNCA because it’s a liberal arts university, the scenery and because Asheville has the reputation of being a very progressive city. 

“I guess I was kind of scared of just coming to the American south and not being in a super progressive town. ButI also wanted to experience southern culture, so it was a nice balance,” she said. 

Parsons said the study abroad program here is an extra year added to her degree.

“Normally, we do a three year degree and this is a fourth year between our second and third year. So, it will say on my final degree, a sociology degree with a year abroad. The grades I get here don’t count. I just have to pass,” she said. 

Parson said she has been having a really great time here and loves living in nature, the people she lives with and her classes but has also experienced some difficulties. 

“Food has been hard as someone who is vegetarian, I’ve struggled with that a bit. The stress of living in America can just  get me sometimes. The social inequalities of America can be one thing too many,” she said. 

Parsons said America has a big car culture compared to back home where she could easily walk from one place to another. 

“Here I have to make a plan and everything takes so much longer,” she said. 

Parsons said being away from her family can be hard but she has lived away from them for the past four years so the cultural differences are the weirdest thing for her. 

“I really miss cheese,” she said, laughing. “Also just random ingredients. I can’t find golden syrup anywhere. So I just don’t know how to make any of the things I usually bake. It’s just like when you wanna do a comfort bake and then you just can’t bake.” 

Parsons also said the words are different sometimes, tripping her up and making her feel silly. 

“I’ll say something and then I realize I’ve just used the wrong word,” she said. 

Parsons said here, it feels almost like a higher privilege to go to college because of the high expense of tuition here. 

“It’s so much more accessible at home. If you can live at home or work it’s still fairly accessible because we get government grants based on our income,” she said. 

Parsons said here, she needs three jobs just to be able to afford living and having fun. 

“The going out culture I found really weird. At home you know, we go to the pub like three, four days a week. Just having a hard day, you go have a pint. We go clubbing, again two to three times a week. Here, I’ve been clubbing twice, so that’s really different,” she said. 

Parsons said the drinking ages differ between here and the UK as well as the pub culture. 

“Pub culture is huge, like just being able to have a pint and watch football. I miss that,” she said. 

Parsons said she has also found religion to be different here in the U.S.

“I don’t know anyone personally at home who’s a Christian. Whereas here, christianity is way more of a big thing, just in America in general,” she said. 

Parsons also has an international host family that isn’t affiliated with UNCA. 

“There’s this group of, I suppose, church folk. They’re Christians but they don’t all go to the same church. They  have this kind of common interest in travel and supporting international students and those Christian values of looking after one another. So, we do big group activities,” she said. 

Parsons said some of the activities include game nights with other international students and partner families. Sometimes she just goes to dinner with her specific host family. 

“We had one international student meeting at the beginning of the semester in which this lady was just handing out slips with her number on it and then she got told off,” she said.

Parsons said the first couple of months here would have been way harder without the international students group.

“This is quite a unique experience and I think that’s been helped by this group. We all have hung out quite a lot as international students, which has been really nice. like, I’ve made a lot of American friends but I’ve also made friends from South Korea, from Poland and from Japan,” she said. 

Parsons said if they hadn’t been going to the group, they wouldn’t have all met. 


“They just started doing this coffee morning thing on Friday for international students every other week and they only started that two weeks ago,” she said. 


Parsons said after her year ends here, she has her senior year to finish at home and then would love to get into documentary filmmaking. 


Bronte Trotman, 22, grew up in Brighton, England, where kit kats taste different and it’s midnight at home when she’s just sitting down to eat supper. 

Trotman has been at UNCA for 3 months, her first time in the United States, as a junior studying Criminology.

“It was recommended to me by my study abroad coordinator at home. I was talking to her about studying abroad. I was talking about my interests and then she brought up Asheville, it was something that I’d never heard of before,” she said. 

Trotman plans to go back to England in May, graduate from the University of Chester and use her criminology degree to work with prisoners.

“I want to go into probation, the rehabilitative side rather than working with the police,” she said, 

Trotman said what drew her in were the mountains and aspects of Asheville like theater and live music that she’s really interested in. 

“I’ve enjoyed it. Not more than I thought I was going to, like I knew that I’d enjoy it here but it’s shocked me a lot more than I thought it was going to,” she said.

Trotman said one of the main things she has noticed here is size.  

“This being considered a small school, it’s the same size as my university at home and that’s not a big school, it’s like a medium size college I would say. This one’s like the same size, if not a bit bigger, it’s considered small and I’m like, ‘that’s crazy’,” she said. 

Trotman said another huge difference for her has been the food. 

“I’m sorry, I’m not a fan of American chocolate,” she said, laughing. “Some is good, like Lindt chocolate, that tastes the same. Things like Twix we do have at home but they taste so different which really freaks me out.” 

Trotman said there are so many differences between classes back home and here. 

“The class size is smaller. I don’t know if that’s just because it’s like a small school but even at my university at home it’s relatively small, the class. My cohort for the year is like 80 people, something like that,” she said. 

Trotman said another thing that stands out to her would be the teaching style. 

“It’s a lot more discussion based (here) rather than just being spoken at,” she said. “Also just the way the school works. You go in, do all these classes and find out what you want to do with that afterward. At home, you go in to do that specific degree. Like, I applied to this college for criminology,” she said. 

Trotman said she likes the system here because she can do a variety of different classes and find a way to put them all together. 

“We don’t have credit hours. You can choose what classes you take in your last year but in the first two years you have to take the courses that they have for you,” she said. 

Trotman said another huge thing that sets America and England apart is the tuition.

“My tuition for one year is $9000 and that’s the same, no matter what university you go to in England,” she said.

Trotman said in-state or out-of-state tuition doesn’t exist in England. 

“I think it’s even the same  if I went to like, Oxford. I’m pretty sure it’s still the same tuition but you don’t see that money ever so if you get student finance, that money automatically goes straight to the uni,” she said. 

Trotman said the money doesn’t come in or out of your account and while it is a loan, the threshold for the loan is high. 

“I think you have to earn just under $30,000 a year to even start to pay it back. Once you hit that threshold, you start to pay, I think it’s like 10 or less than 10% out of your paycheck every month,” she said. 

Trotman said most people don’t earn up to the threshold so they just never have to pay it back. 

“I think after 30 years, maybe a certain amount of years it’s done,” she said. 

Trotman said a few of her difficulties include being so far from home, even though she said she’s not one to get homesick. 

“I think it can be a bit scary sometimes, especially at the beginning. Sometimes I’m like, ‘oh shit, I’m in America, I’m 4,000 miles away from home,” she said. “But overall, it’s all been really positive.”