I moved here from Albania in January 2017, mid-sophomore year. This was the first time in 16 years I had ever changed not just schools but also my place of residency. Understandably, this transition to a country on the other side of the planet was overwhelming at first. Marshall is much more spacious than my old high school; the student body is 20 times larger with a more diverse racial and cultural composition. I struggled to adapt for the remaining part of my sophomore year, both socially and academically. I had to take tutoring for Algebra every single day until the end of the year to catch up with the pace of the class.

I also did not have an easy time making friends and felt very isolated at first. Although I took comfort in the fact that I was not the only international student, it felt weird having to explain to people where Albania was located when, for 16 years, that was the only place I had ever known. At home I speak Albanian with my parents, but English with my eight-year-old brother because his level of fluency in Albanian is not as high.

Looking back almost two years later, I feel as though an entirely new life started for me once I moved here.

When I recall memories from freshman year, it seems like they happened ages ago. I remember being against the idea of leaving when my mom first gave me the news, but now I can honestly say this transition was the best thing to ever happen to me.