Faces on Campus: Meet Patrick at Auburn Global

Auburn University
culture shock
advice for students
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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on February 16, 2023

Senior Student Services Advisor Patrick Maestas works with international students at Auburn University to overcome culture shock and make the most of their time in the US.

Auburn University

“I was an [ESL] instructor here at Auburn Global for about seven and [a] half years,” says Patrick Maestas, senior student services advisor. “I transitioned over to advising and it’s been a challenge, but it’s going great; I’m enjoying it!”

Originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, Maestas shares his journey to Auburn and his multiple roles working with international students.

Adapting to Change in a Foreign Country

Maestas is enthusiastic about helping students get comfortable in their new environment, as he has personal experience in dealing with culture shock

“I lived abroad in Japan from 2003 to 2011. I was teaching English from kindergarten all the way up through university,” he said.

He connected his journey with the different stages students go through when adjusting to a new lifestyle, from the first few weeks of arrival to having a few months in-country. 

“When I first got [to Japan], it was great, it was amazing, it was exciting,” he said, but after some time, he too began to miss his family and hometown. This is all part of learning more about yourself, recognizing your strengths, and sharpening your skills, he says. “You literally just go back and start to realize, ‘Hey! Life ain’t too bad!’ You get accustomed to it,” he added.

Maestas understands what students go through during their initial transition. He empathizes with them and discusses coping strategies, like talking to friends, getting involved in university organizations and events. He recently helped organize a new event, the first annual soccer tournament on campus. 

“In a span of two weeks, we created the whole event,” Maestas said. “We had a good turnout; it was exactly what we expected. Honestly, the smiles on people’s faces … we made sure everything went well, [and] people were happy!”

Beyond getting involved on campus, Maestas says the most important step international students can take to succeed is to reach out for support from campus advisors. 

Working with International Students at Auburn Global

When it comes to student support, Maestas says his role provides a safe space for students to ask questions. He makes sure they are progressing well in their studies, asking about their professors and course loads. He clears up any housing-related concerns, offers resources to overcome language barriers, and more.

“We are working with students in any way possible,” Maestas said. He encourages students to step out of their comfort zone and offers guidance to those who are struggling.

Recently, he worked with one student who was having a tough time. “We reached out to him and provided a place to come over and just sit down and talk with us,” he said. “I would be in my office or [at my] desk, he would walk in, I would put my stuff away, [and] we would have a conversation. It wasn’t always tears and sadness, but I knew he needed that communication. I knew he needed that outlet, so I was able to provide that. Now he is doing better!”

Advice for International Students

To enjoy your time at university, Maestas recommends international students keep an open mind and get fully immersed in student life. 

“Do your research. Be open minded. Try new stuff. It’s OK to have your friends — I had my friends when I was abroad,” he said. “Participation actually helps improve your grades … and your social life. If you are traveling abroad or living in America, [participation] will definitely improve your homesickness.”

He suggests communicating with your professors, advisors, and friends, and trying out multiple languages: English, your native language, and any other languages you may speak. For example, Maestas’ ability to speak Spanish connected him with many colleagues in Japan, many of whom he is still close with today.

Maestas considers himself a coach — motivating students, supporting them in facing challenges, and ensuring every student is working toward achieving success. Both Maestas and the team at Auburn Global are dedicated to their advising roles in supporting international students and creating a positive and nurturing environment. 

He says, “[culture shock] is a challenge, but it will get better and it does get better! You know it always does.”

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