Chinmay Solanki remembers the day everybody came to visit him.
His entire family, as well as friends, and even friends of friends brought along relatives, filling his apartment in Surat, India.
They came to meet him. Congratulate him. And first and foremost, comfort him.
They kept telling him it was such a big deal. How important this experience would be. It was so essential that they insisted on telling everyone that he was going to a university in the United States.
And everyone just kept saying one thing to him. The same thing. The catchphrase he did not want to hear. The thing that was said so often that it drove him to frustration.
“Take care everything will be okay. Take care everything will be okay. Take care everything will be okay. You’re going to U.S.A.”
He remembers being so frustrated that he told his mom Sangita that if anyone else came to tell them he was not at home. He just wanted to be alone.
The following week, Chinmay Solanki, then 19, boarded a flight bound for Texas.
It was May 19, 2014. It felt like just another day, Solanki said. A day without excitement. A day without anxiety. A day without any strong emotions. A day where you just step into your normal routine and live life.
“I did not feel much of anything really,” he said. “I did, however, think of my dog and how I would miss him.”
In 22 hours, he landed in Houston and was welcomed by family members.
Texas Wesleyan University, would be his new home. The place where he is gaining a valuable and cherished achievement in his country, an American college education.
“No one in my whole family has been out of the country to study,” he said. “I was ready to embark upon this new journey open minded and free of feeling that would take away from this experience.”
So he did not let the typical emotions of sadness and homesickness get to him while he studies here.
International freshmen start their first year of college learning how to adjust to a new country, culture, climate, cuisine, and language.
This past summer is the second time Solanki, a liberal studies sophomore, traveled back to India.
He has grown to love the small and comfortable environment of the campus.
“I like it here,” he said. “I know many international students only stay a few semesters. But I want to stay all four years. I have met two of the best people I know here. I can not only trust them but respect them as well.”
His best friend, Sachiko Jayaratne, made transitioning easy and comfortable.
“She taught me so many things and showed me how things work over here. Everything from traffic to how to socially behave,” he said.
Jayaratne, a sophomore mass communication major, said he has adjusted very well since she met him 3 semesters ago.
“He is way more outgoing now and has made a lot of new friends. His socializing skills have improved very quickly,” she said. “He is a very friendly guy who is always down to hangout. He is a very helpful person and great to be around.”
Wesleyan currently has about 600 international students, said Dean of Freshman Success Joe Brown. Almost 400 are freshmen.
Brown said it is often hard for international students to adjust to life in America.
“It takes about a semester to adapt to the American education system, Brown said. “It takes a lot of bravery to leave your comfort zone, your family, culture, and country and travel to another place to study,” Brown said.
Solanki plans to return home to India after graduation. He will help run his family’s sugar cane business.
“I love my country. It is my home,” he said. “I really love it here but I love my home more.”