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  • Writer's pictureBella Sabino

Imposter Syndrome: Navigating A New School and a New Country



Learning to live in a new country was hard enough, but navigating a new school with groups of people who already knew each other was ten times as hard. It is obvious that studying abroad is a culture shock. Going from New York City to Rome was not an easy transition; although exciting, the change brought many challenges, tears, doubts, and worries. However, I never thought trying to fit in at a new school would be part of this. Walking into the mensa on JFRC move-in day was a culture shock in itself, forget being in a foreign country. It was me, my dad, my roommate who I came with from Fordham, and her mom, walking into a cafeteria of groups of students sitting with each other at round tables. It was a strange feeling of not belonging. Being a junior at Fordham, I have made my place and my friends at school. At Fordham, I am able to go into the cafeteria alone and spur-of-the-moment sit with someone who I may not be close with, but close enough to eat lunch with. I wouldn’t say I’m popular at Fordham – by no means – but at school, I can walk into the cafeteria or a party and know a handful of people, never feeling like I don’t belong. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt out of place, but standing in this cafeteria looking at the crowd of students sitting together, laughing and chatting, brought me back to my own freshman orientation when I knew no one.

The first day of orientation progressed and I started to meet other people everyone was incredibly friendly and nice, but I still felt out of place not understanding many of the LUC inside jokes, comments, and experiences that many students I met were making. I remember sitting at one of the orientation meetings with a presenter who stated “I don’t need to go over this…you guys know this from Chicago.” and me shifting awkwardly in my chair completely unaware of what she was talking about.

The following week was tough as well. The first day of classes was similar to orientation. Luckily at this point, I had met some amazing friends throughout the week and I was able to hang out and get food, but sitting in class without them was a different story. When my professors said to get into groups or partners, I always felt like the odd man out, waiting until someone turned to me and asked me to be their partner. I met a bunch of students but they all had come with their friend groups from Chicago and I did not want to intrude. Navigating Sakai instead of Fordham’s Blackboard was a change as well and I felt stupid asking LUC students for help. It was also tough watching Fordham students succeed in finding friendships so fast, many even traveling out of the country with their new groups during the first weekend. I remember that first weekend, I stayed in on Thursday, hearing kids laughing and chatting in the halls while I sat in bed doing homework and watching Netflix. I really felt like an imposter.

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It has been three weeks since the semester started and I feel like I am finally starting to find my place on this campus. I have made an amazing friend group, met and hung out with other incredible students, and have already traveled to many parts of Italy. This feeling of belonging is still fresh though. There are still moments when my friends are in class and I sit in Rinaldo's alone watching as groups of students walk around saying “hi” to each other, knowing most of the people sitting in the café. Or, when I walk into the mensa alone and every table is full and I just turn around and leave because I don’t know where to sit or who to sit with. I’ve had friends come and go through JFRC and they never once mentioned that they had difficulty making friends, making me feel like I'm the problem. The times of loneliness make me feel like I'm not good enough, or that there’s something wrong with me, but it’s a daily battle to remind myself that it’s all just in my head; imposter syndrome is an absolute killer.

My friend group is amazing, and I could not have asked for a better group of girls to have by my side while abroad. It is just the moments when I’m alone that I reflect on my place on this campus and who I am in terms of everyone else. In four months' time, we fourteen Fordham students will be returning back to New York while the majority go back to Chicago together, as old and new friends.

Studying abroad and learning to get around Rome was no easy feat, but I never would’ve guessed that navigating a new college would be the biggest challenge of all. It’s been a tough few weeks, but I am excited for the semester to progress and for my sense of belonging to (hopefully) continue growing. If anyone else is feeling like this, both visiting and non-visiting students, it may feel like you’re alone, but you’re really not alone. Imposter syndrome is not easy to overcome, but each day will get easier and we’ll find where we are meant to be…both in Rome and at the JFRC.

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