Young woman smiling, posing with lake behind.

International Student at Oakland

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From the U.S. to Europe and back – Corinne Zahra’s Journey

By Lauren Reid

Corinne Zahra was an international student at Oakland University in the Fall 2019 semester.

Zahra was born and raised in New York City and lived there for 10 years before moving to the island of Gozo in Malta, where her family is from originally. She plans to finish her degree at the University of Malta, followed up with a master’s degree in creative writing somewhere in England.

Zahra’s ultimate goal is to move back to her favorite city, New York City, after completing her education, and stay put.

She runs an online blog called “A Storm of Words,” where she dishes on her experiences, tells stories, and lays out compelling insights.

What are some differences between living in Malta and living in New York City?

I like New York [City] because it’s busy, it’s noisy, and there are lots of people. Even the simple fact that you can walk everywhere in New York or you can catch the subway. I love that. On the island of Gozo, I feel like I’m always at the same places. It’s very comfortable, and that’s what I don’t like. The smallness makes you comfortable. You think, “Oh, this is the best place in the world,” but I know better. I know that living in New York, it’s known for being this great city. It’s expensive, but it’s incredible.

As far as school is concerned – attending university in two different countries – what are the pros/cons to each side of academia?

The pro side of the University of Malta is that it’s free. It’s a good university for Malta, for our type of culture and employability.

Being here at Oakland, the education is way better. The way we are assessed here is more spread out and easier. Our professors here [at OU] are so helpful and give us all of the information.

Our professors [in Malta] don’t know how to [teach] like they do here. They want us to be scholars and read a bunch of scholarly work, like Oxford people. They want us to know things by heart and think like philosophers, but don’t teach us how to. It’s not like that here. Here, they tell you how things are.

Where do you feel like you belong on OU’s campus?

I feel like I belong in Vandy (Vandenberg Hall). I’m very comfortable here and I’ve settled here, and I really don’t want to leave. I love that I’m alone here and that I don’t have my parents around. I love my best friends, but not having them here is kind of cool, too. I’m on my own. I’m all alone in the world. Some people might think it’s scary, and, at some points, I do think it’s scary and kind of lonely, but at the same time it feels really good.

Throughout your journey through New York and Malta, what have you learned about yourself?

I’ve learned that I’m a very determined person, I’m a very strong person, and, being here in Michigan, I’ve realized that I’m tired. Before [coming] here, I was working very hard to get money to come here, working very hard to pass my exams (because if I didn’t pass, I wouldn’t be able to come to Michigan), so I’ve done everything I could possibly have done these past 10 years to move back to New York.

But, being here in Michigan, I feel very peaceful. This is my time of rest.  At the moment, I feel very rested; I’d never realized how busy I am, how much tension I feel, and how strong I am. I’m independent, and I can do anything in the world. I’m here in Michigan, and it took so much hard work to get here.

 

Young woman smiling, posing with lake behind.
OU international student Corinne Zahra smiles contently in front of Lake Michigan on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Photo credit: Jolene Samhan.

What do you want other people to understand about your identity?

 

I’m complicated and so is life. I’m all over the place, but at the same time, I’m all congested into one being. I have a priority that has been prevalent for the past 10 years and that’s getting back to New York City. I know who I am and I know my identity. But, New York is a big factor. It’s wondrous, incredible, grand. It’s anything.

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