Martin: My International Experience
Martin, Tennessee never fails to amaze me. If you have ever asked a person, why they came to Martin, a lot of them would answer with, “the people”. What about the people, right? There are people everywhere, but for this small town, diversity is something that we cherish and encourage! Instead of seeing races you are used to, Martin is home to many different ethnicity! I used to think that only large cities contained ethnic diversity, to this level of extent. If you pay attention, you’ll notice there is a mixture of African Americans, Asians, Irish people, Saudi Arabians, Greeks, Canadians, and so much more. Lately I have pondered what life is like for foreigners, especially non-athletes.
Europe is so far and such a large continent in itself, I could not imagine moving to a small little town, that I was never aware of. Now that’s a drastic change! Not knowing anything about your school, the town, or people that inhabit it, can be a scary thought. However, upon arrival Amelia Campbell, UTM tennis player, says “coming from England, I didn’t really know what to expect but I think this small town has provided me with many opportunities!” Yes, Martin is not Nashville, and never will be. We are our own community that takes pride in itself because we have the opportunity to do something that other cities can’t, at least not to our extent. We seize every chance to engage the community and offer personal and business opportunities to every person who shows that they want that one opportunity.
The people of Martin are more than kind and patient, they are genuine. Their ability to make anyone feel welcome and like any other student is what really captured Wenhe Zhu’s attention. “Every classmate and professor were more than patient with me. I’m very appreciative for them. I love Martin, love UTM, UTM taught me a lot.” Zhu is from Shanghai, China and graduated this past December and credits our wonderful town in helping shape the amazing and hard-working man that he is today!
Martin, Tennessee, a place full of friendships. Fadhel Alanazi, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia describes his experience here as nothing short of amazing! Martin is so small but the smaller the better if you ask me! It gives people a chance to make personal connections with others and build relationships that last forever. “Martin may be small but we’re all family.” This sense of family and connectivity is what Martin is all about. “Martin has the Soybean Festival every year that draws many people closer together, you meet new friends and you get closer to our community.”
Ali Alshaban and Adrian De Sagon, both members of the UT Martin International club, credit their love of Martin, mostly to the community! Martin’s size does not matter especially since the people that occupy the town represent a portion of the American population that value relationships and the success of others. The amount of selflessness that resides in Martin is incomparable to other towns! Alshaban’s, a native of Qatif, Saudi Arabia, best memory in Martin is when he was invited to a barbecue with the UT Martin football team. Barbecue and a chance to hang out and get to know such an influential group on campus sounds like an amazing experience! This is just one of the many welcoming acts of kindness that have stuck with our international students. De Sagon describes his five-year experience, in this happy little town, as a good one. His love of the no-traffic, family-oriented nature, and size are all major factors to his fondness for Martin!
Small towns offer the chance to have that sense of belonging and family because it is much closer community, unlike large cities! At one point, UTM was super diverse, and had all kinds of ethnicity enjoying our little town! Both Ali and Adrian want to stay in Martin after graduation, and hey, can you blame them? Martin is affordable, not crowded, and is extremely family-oriented! Being surrounded by people that were once strangers, but now, they can’t imagine not having in their lives is something that I can say I’m happy to hear. It’s pleasing and comforting to know that we live in a town committed to making every single individual, regardless of color or background, feel like family.
Martin gives its citizens and new-comers every opportunity to create all kinds of relationships, whether it’s on a business or personal level and I am so glad that Martin is able to make anyone feel welcome! Martin is all about building connections and that can only be achieved if everyone in the community buys and tries to connect with others. It’s tough coming to a new country and adjusting to their culture and lifestyles, but each individual I had the opportunity to interview, assured me that the people of Martin never fall short of making them feel like Martin, Tennessee is also their home too! So if you have not had the opportunity to just sit down and talk to an international student, or even a regular foreigner in town, please take your chances, and help us continue to bridge the gap between internationals and locals, relatively speaking!