For senior international exchange student Irina Gurewitsch from the University of Mannheim in Germany, coming to UNCG was a welcome change of scenery. Originally from Minsk, Russia, Gurewitsch moved to Germany when she was six and didn’t see much greenery except when she spent weekends at her grandmother’s house in the forest. For her first time in the US, she found an unexpected sense of home when she stumbled upon the gardening club during her first week. Joining the club gave her a sense of nostalgia and familiarity that was reminiscent of the time she spent in the woods with her family and made the campus feel like a home away from home. “I didn’t realize I was that much of an outdoor person until I came here and joined the club. I thought it would be fun to learn about gardening and have a place to meet new people,” recalled Gurewitsch. “I actually tried out a few different clubs, but I was most interested in gardening. It was nice having a day of the week to go and relax in the garden with my friends. It’s very nice having nature around.”

Being back in the garden gave her the opportunity to meet new people and learn how to grow various fruits, vegetables and herbs. “I remember one weekend we were building new garden beds and I met so many new people from it, and we even ended up having Thanksgiving dinner together!” said Gurewitsch. Thanks to her new friends, she was able to experience the common facets of American college culture. “My most memorable experience was when I got to see my favorite band, Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Getting there was an experience I’ll never forget, a friend and I rented a car and drove four hours just for them. Knowing they are from North Carolina made me more excited to come here.”Coming to UNCG was her first time being in the United States, and North Carolina didn’t disappoint. Used to being a city person, she was able to explore nature to her heart’s content, with hikes at Hanging Rock, beaches in Wilmington, and camping in the mountains of Asheville. “Greensboro is nice because it’s a good starting point and really easy to travel from. Everything is compact and there is a little bit of everything to do.” For students thinking about studying at UNCG, Gurewitsch recommends finding friends with cars. “I wish I had been able to explore more of Greensboro but it was hard to do without a car. The public transportation system was also a bit confusing at first, but eventually I got used to it.”

Although her university decided on UNCG for her, she’d always heard positive things from other Mannheim students, and found it very easy to make new friends. “Because there are so many international students here, you never feel that lost. We are all close and my friends here feel like family.” While the campus culture differed from Mannheim, she found classes enjoyable and took advantage of the many cultural opportunities offered on campus. “There are no cultural festivals in Mannheim. They only have business events, so going to things like the Asian Autumn Festival was interesting.” Finalizing her major in mathematics, Gurewitsch found it refreshing to be able to communicate with her professors one on one and easy to balance her academic and social life.