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Homeschooled, International Students Adjust to Hectic College Culture

Culture shock is not something your average American student at UT has to worry about. However, UT has quite a bit of diversity when it comes to educational background and country of origin. Students come from public, private and even homeschooling, as well as 50 states and 137 countries. So, how are students handling their transition to UT?

Laura Stewart is a freshman writing major from Washington state who was homeschooled all the way from kindergarten to freshman year of high school. Stewart finished off her high school career at a public school, but characterized her education and class material during homeschooling as being conservative due to her family’s beliefs. “When you’re home schooled it’s different because it’s biased because your family chooses what you learn,” Stewart said. She also mentioned that attending a public high school definitely prepared her for a much more liberal education by covering much broader topics than she was previously exposed to.

Luckily, Sewart said she was fortunate enough to have a large group of friends prior to attending public school. However, “You have to work hard to make friends when you’re home schooled,” Stewart said. Compared to a homeschool environment there may be more opportunities to make friends due to the upbeat nature of our campus and the plethora of social activities at UT and off campus. 

 Being surrounded by so many people all the time has been one of the greatest differences and biggest hurdles Stewart said she has experienced since breaking away from here home schooled past. “It’s definitely the lack of privacy,” she said. “I’m used to sitting alone in a room for a few hours and not seeing another person.” Luckily, her ability to learn has not been affected negatively. 

In fact, Stewart believes her homeschooling has greatly benefited her when it comes to time management since she had a very flexible schedule early on. “I guess I have had a pretty independent education, I’ve taught myself a lot before,” Stewart said. “Most of my time management problems are just me being lazy, not because I don’t know how to manage my time.” Laziness is something that may hinder students’ ability to manage their time during their transition to UT, but not all students have developed time management habits such as Stewart. 

Stewart likes to spend her free time hanging out at the pool and chatting with people in her dorm. She also loves how beautiful campus is, and enjoys walking around and appreciating the weather. Quite similarly, Victor Philaire, a freshman finance major from Agen, France enjoys Tampa weather in contrast to the rain and clouds he is used to seeing back home. Philaire is a member of the UT swim team and has been swimming for 13 years. Since Philaire had been to the states two times before coming to UT, he said he was prepared for American culture.

It appears there have been quite a few differences when it comes to swimming, such as the increased strictness of the NCAA. “Basically we don’t really have swimming teams in france in high school or in college,” said Philaire, “so it’s a group of 10-15 swimmers in clubs.” Even though he previously swam on a club team, he devoted about the same amount of time to swimming as he does here at UT, but at home he never had to wake up for a 6 AM practice.

Although a demanding schedule is something he is used to, Philaire, as well as other college athletes, experience a much different lifestyle than your average NARP (non-athletic regular person). Philaire laughed as he discussed what he does with the little free time he has. “I go out, especially on the weekend,” said Philaire, “maybe to the beach on Saturdays. But during the week it’s mainly swimming, sleeping, studying, classes, and eating.” This type of lifestyle is not something he minds, as he mentioned he likes to manage his time by juggling his studies and swimming. 

College education in the U.S. is completely different when compared to French universities. In France the educational options are very limited. Students choose their paths by taking a large exam in either sciences and math, economics, social sciences and math, or languages and philosophy. Philaire seemed to be very passionate about his finance major. “Finally I have found something I really like after 18 years,” said Philaire. Finance is a subject he wouldn’t have been able to take immediately back home because it would require an even higher level of education. 

Philaire is enjoying his time here at UT. He said he has been able to make a lot of friends on and off of the swim team, and stays in contact with his family and friends at home. “I don’t miss home honestly,” said Philaire, “I’m fine here.” 

We are very lucky to attend a school with so much diversity. Students who come from different backgrounds are what make our school so unique. Exposing ourselves to different cultures and outlooks is easy to do considering our school is relatively small. This exposure compliments the quality education we receive here at UT by assisting us when it comes to broadening our horizons. There’s definitely a lot to learn from the students who go here and everyone should take advantage of that.

Elizabeth Rockett can be reached at


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