Home Away From Home: An International Student Guide to Miami

Florida International University
advice for students
culture shock
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By Kate H Knapp
Last updated on January 29, 2024

International students looking for familiar foods, art, and music won’t have to go far to find them in Miami.

Beaches in Miami, the weather in Miami, art, nightlife, and more – Florida’s second-most populous city offers so much for international students hoping to study abroad in the US. With 70% of its population being Hispanic, Miami is a dynamic city that embraces and celebrates cultures from around the world. International students looking for familiar flavors, sights, smells, or sounds won’t have to go far to find them, as ethnic neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, markets, and more are located on nearly every street corner. Several of the city’s cultural neighborhoods can also provide community and familiar favorites for international students far away from home. 

The region has been shaped by a variety of different cultures, which can be seen in its music, art, food, and neighborhoods, including the Black heritage of Historic Overtown; the captivating murals of Wynnwood; the Black churches of Little Bahamas; and the Caribbean-, Black-, and Latin-owned businesses of Little Havana and Little Haiti. International students will be in good company, among those who came here from other parts of the world to make a new home. 

Miami’s International Neighborhoods

With a vibrant cultural scene, a large ethnic population, and businesses from around the world, Miami provides a variety of ways for international students attending Florida International University (FIU) to feel at home while combatting homesickness.

Latin & Caribbean Neighborhoods

Little Havana

Surrounding Calle Ocho (Southwest Eighth Street), Little Havana has been the city’s center for Cuban culture since the 1960s. Its dynamic murals, music scene, and Latin-inspired restaurants, bakeries, and coffee houses are guaranteed to offer international students a little taste of home. 

The Máximo Gómez Park, affectionately called Domino Park, is popular with locals who come to play dominoes, talk about life, and sip coffee. No trip to the park is complete without a visit to the Paseo de las Estrellas (Walk of the Stars) to see the stars of Latin American actors, writers, artists, and musicians. The Little Havana Visitors Center is a great way to learn more about Little Havana and other multicultural neighborhoods throughout the city.   

Many Latin events take place throughout the year, but the Calle Ocho Music Festival is one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the US. This lively street party takes over 15 city blocks in Little Havana as part of Carnaval Miami

Little Haiti

With bright, pastel-colored buildings featuring Haitian restaurants, markets, art galleries, and shops, Little Haiti brings Afro-Caribbean culture to this small enclave. International students will find a neighborhood brimming with the sounds of Creole being spoken, live music playing, and the tantalizing smells of traditional island dishes cooking. 

The Little Haiti Cultural Complex is a great place to take Afro-Caribbean and Haitian classes, view arts and crafts, and dance to live music and eat authentic Creole dishes – you can do so every Friday at the free Sounds of Little Haiti event. The 9,000 square-foot Caribbean Marketplace is also located here, which was built to replicate the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince, and it’s where you can find handmade wares, regional foods, and live music. 

East Asian & Chinese Neighborhoods

The city doesn’t have a traditional Chinatown (yet), but international students will find a little piece of home at one of the many Asian businesses found along 163rd Street in North Miami Beach. Restaurants serving dim sum, Szechuan, Thai, sushi, or traditional Chinese cuisine, as well as the Chung Hing Oriental Market, which sells a variety of pan-Asian ingredients, cooking utensils, and products, are all located within a few blocks of each other. 

FIU international students will also find an array of Asian restaurants close to the main campus, including Sang’s Chinese Food and Dim Sum, Arigatai Sushi, or Ohho Ramen Dim Sum

International students looking for a spiritual community can visit the Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple.

Indian Neighborhoods

There may not be a specific Indian neighborhood per se, but the city and its surrounding areas offer a variety of Indian restaurants, salons offering henna, and stores featuring Indian fashions and decor. International students can visit an Indian market, such as the Flavors of India grocery store, which provides familiar flavors of home via spices, ingredients, and snacks.

Several Indian restaurants close to FIU’s main campus include Zaika Indian Cuisine, Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine, and Miami Halal.

Additionally, the Shri Mariamman Temple offers a place to worship for those far from home.  

The Weather in Miami

Some international students may feel right at home in the region’s tropical climate. The city experiences hot and humid days during the hurricane season of summer, where intermittent rain showers can happen at a moment’s notice. The winter sees a drop in the rain and heat, but temperatures still hover in the upper 70s (Fahrenheit). Students coming from cooler climates may want to pack accordingly. 

Feel at Home Without Leaving Campus

As the largest public research university in the US with a diverse student population of more than 3,500 international students from 140+ countries, FIU knows how to make students from all around the world feel welcome. The 342-acre main campus is in suburban Miami-Dade, making it an easy jumping-off point to explore the city’s cultural offerings, but the university also features other campuses throughout the greater metropolitan area and beyond.

FIU offers several programs designed to help international students adapt to college life, including the International Peer Mentor program which pairs a new student with a returning FIU student, who provides guidance and support. The International Community Engagement Program is another way for international students to get involved with the community through volunteer work.

International students can also find a community of peers by joining a club or organization such as the International Student Club, the Caribbean Student Association, the Venezuelan Student Alliance, and the Haitian Student Union, among others.  

Finding a Home Away from Home

With a large Hispanic population, diverse cultural influences throughout its neighborhoods, and a hot tropical climate, Miami is an ideal spot for international students to attend school without feeling too far away from home. 

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