By Ava Dunwoody | Staff Writer
International students returned to Baylor, bringing along with them the diversity that contributes to the university’s culture. While 62% of Baylor students come from Texas, 4.9% of students have come from out of the country to call Baylor home.
The university’s 19,297 students, both undergraduate and graduate, come from a total of 96 countries.
Sophomore Eunice Philip was born in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and is one of the many international students with a story behind how Baylor became her home.
“In Nigeria, we have a lot of terrorist group activities that dominate the area,” Philip said.
When she was 14, her school was demolished and she “couldn’t go to school anymore because it did not exist.”
When the story got global attention, missionaries from the nonprofit organization Unlikely Heroes departed for restoration aid. Philip’s father talked with them to help find a solution for the girls, including his daughter, that were now unable to attend school.
Philip was sent to live with host families in America in 2014 to attend school. She left behind both of her parents and her six siblings and hasn’t seen them since.
“I wasn’t even a part of the conversation,” Philip said. “It just happened. I ended up here. It was a process that I still don’t understand.”
Philip said communication with her family was difficult at first, but now with Whatsapp, she talks to them about once a week. The “separation with family” was the hardest part, she said, but it was also difficult to adjust to a new culture.
“I grew up in my country and that’s all I knew. Then in a blink of an eye, I’m no longer there,” Philip said. “To come in and see how completely different everything is was the greatest shock of my life.”
She said she first noticed the culture shock at the airport when she arrived. Everything from “the food” to the “way people talked to each other” was different. Even learning social cues like making eye contact was hard for her to learn, she said, because “back home, we don’t do eye contact.”
“It was a whole new world for me and I had to start from the beginning,” Philip said. “Everything that I knew felt like it was the opposite here.”
Philip said she had time in high school to adjust to American culture, but she was nervous about the transition to college. But once she got to Baylor, she said, “it became something that was fun.”
She learned to enjoy talking to new people and liked how at Baylor, she was able to meet people from all around the world. When she joined a sorority, Philip said she found a community that helped her find a family when she was so far away from her own.
“Tri Delta has definitely made a difference because I know that I can always pick up the phone and call someone, and they will be there — and that’s what family is,” Phillips said. “It doesn’t have to be biological. It’s just knowing someone cares.”
Freshman Faith Skariah is another student who comes from outside of the country and has found family at Baylor. She lived in Brunssum, the Netherlands, until she came to Baylor, where her brother, sophomore Micah Skariah, also attended.
“My dad is in the military,” Skariah said. “So we’d move every two to three years because he’d get stationed in a new country.”
In total, Skariah has moved eight times. For the most part, she said “it has been exciting and a great experience,” and she plans to continue traveling in the future. Sometimes, however, it felt “unstable” to never live in the same place for more than four years.
“It always takes me awhile to adjust to a new place,” Skariah said. “But with [Baylor], it’s been pretty quick. It definitely helps that my brother Micah is already here, and I have a family member here to ground me, but already I feel home at Baylor.”
Skariah said she also feels connected through the Leadership LLC in Dawson Hall, where she lives on campus. In her Introduction to Leadership class, she met another girl who comes from a military family and said it was “a good feeling” to be with someone with a similar background.
“I feel like I really fit in here,” Skariah said. “With COVID, classes have been hard to meet people, but still, even in classes, I feel like I am sitting with and learning at the same pace as everyone else, so it’s been good.”
Philip said she also has found community through her academics as a biology major.
“I have the opportunity and the privilege that Baylor provides a home that I know when I’m here, I can be me,” Philip said. “I don’t have to fear feeling different or being selective. I am here at Baylor, I can study whatever major I want, do whatever I can and in the process, make memories.”
Baylor has impacted Philip’s life in many aspects, but most importantly, she said, is the feeling of unity created by the student body.
“It’s a whole family of different people. The diversity of it too plays a huge role because I meet people from similar backgrounds,” Philip said. “I’ve met so many Nigerians. I’ve met so many international people that can relate to what I am going through, so at the end of the day, I know I am not alone.”