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Carolina Pachetti / Gavel Media

Imposter Syndrome as an International Student

When talking to my international friends, one subject that always comes up is experiencing impostor syndrome. Whether it is experiencing it at an internship, job, or college, we have all gone through it at some point. Sitting in a classroom surrounded by people whose first language is English and where you are the only international student can be very intimidating. It makes you think that you shouldn’t be there or that somehow there weren’t many students applying to Boston College and that the university accidentally admitted you to the program. When you think about it, that scenario may seem unrealistic, but, for some reason, we all have that thought process. Maybe it is due to the lack of diversity on campus, or maybe it is something internalized that we have to work on. Maybe it is a mix of both. However, one thing is clear: we have all experienced this at one point.

Traveling overseas to go to college can come with many challenges. You are not only leaving everything behind, but you also have a commitment to succeed and make every sacrifice count. Adjusting and adapting to a different environment can also be difficult, especially when culture shocks and language barriers appear. As an international student from Ecuador, my academic and social culture is very different from the one in the U.S. While it was very exciting to have this new way of learning, I often felt like I did not fit in. Back at home, I would always participate in and be involved in many clubs on campus. And even though I am still doing this at BC, engaging in classes is harder due to language barriers; my brain thinks in Spanish and English at the same time. This makes me feel like an outsider. An impostor.

Before coming to BC, I had never experienced something like this. I knew about the concept of imposter syndrome, but it did not feel familiar to me. But once I started working and interning at different law firms in Boston, I felt that I did not know what I was doing. I was interning with students who were already in law school. I felt that I had to make my supervisor stop all our meetings and slow the pace of them because I needed clarification. Understanding the readings from classes as a political science major was also very difficult. There are some readings from the 1800s written with grammar and vocabulary that English speakers currently do not use. In the beginning, I had to reread more times than I would like to admit to fully understand what the author was trying to say. Taking notes in a lecture class was also tedious. I remember writing sentences with words missing from them because I could not catch them quickly enough. Therefore, I was studying something that I assumed the professor was saying, not what they had specifically mentioned.

Having the Panopto recordings to look back on helped me catch what I had missed. Unfortunately, many professors do not upload the Panopto recordings because they believe that could cause students to skip class very often. However, for international students, this is a great resource that could tremendously help us succeed in that class.

This has not happened to me specifically, but I know many international friends who had to record their one-hour and fifteen-minute classes twice a week to be able to fully grasp everything. They had no other choice because professors would not want to upload the Panopto recordings. To me, the professors’ privilege is showing. Their privilege is blinding them and they do not see beyond what their experience tells them to.

After being in Boston for almost two years, I feel that I am getting used to the language, and all of those challenges are not as debilitating as they used to be. I am very proud of what I have accomplished here and know that it is through my effort that I have been fairly rewarded for my success. However, from time to time, the impostor syndrome seems to reappear in my life, and I feel exactly how I felt during my freshman year. Having a supportive group of friends who are also in a similar position has been immensely helpful. The support I have received from my professors and advisor at BC has also impacted me and helped me shift my perspective. As I mentioned earlier, there are good and bad days, but it is all part of the process of growing.