ISV Ambassador, Ivaan Shrestha shares his research about the challenges international students face while in the United States by observing and interviewing students on campus at Anderson University in Indiana.
“The number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges climbed 6% to a record 764,495 last year, propelled primarily by continuing increases of students from China and a recent surge from Saudi Arabia”, a report released Monday said on USA Today (12:38a.m. EST November 12, 2012). “The student, Amadou Cisse, 29, was shot to death near his apartment, just off campus. The police said he might have been the victim of an attempted robbery. Amadou was a graduate student from Senegal at the University of Chicago” (New York Times).
Studying abroad will always be challenging to all the students no matter whatever their age, caste, gender or their level of education be. And why not? They have to give up almost everything that they used to have in their home country: the culture, food, people and their behavior. In a way it is like getting born once again in a different place. I am an international student and I have interviewed my group of friends who are from different countries about the intricacies they faced while adopting to U.S. culture. My essay is about some challenges they have faced and things they have done to overcome these challenges. In the research I did, I expected to find a variety of challenges for different students, as the students in Anderson University are almost from more than ninety countries, and each of the country have their own cultures and traditions. Some of the research I did is based on my interview and while some of my conclusion is based on my observation and interpretation.
International student #1
I observed one of the international students who have been here for more than four years. I observed him because he has stayed at Anderson University for more than four years and I actually wanted to interview him because I believed no one could tell me more about the changes or the challenges international student have to face than that person. But I felt that anyone can fake the interview questions and to have an absolute conclusion, I had to observe the person without letting this person know about what I was doing.
It was one of the regular weekdays at Anderson University when everyone is busy with their classes and work; many people even do not have the time to regard each other. This person is friendly with almost everyone and I feel there are few people that do not know this person. The person looks happy and satisfied while walking around the campus changing his classes from one building to another. I saw the person hugging people and regarding them about their life with concerned words. The person came up to me, asked me how I was doing and then walked to class. And then, after a while, I observed him walking around as the person was lost in thoughts. At that time I observed him to be lonely, my interpretation may be wrong, but this interpretation is from the observation that I perceived.
As the day passed by, I, along with my friends were having a dinner in Market Place. There were noises all around the place, people murmuring, chatting, screaming, and the clattering of the plates, spoons, forks and knives and in all of this I could see this person eating alone in one of the corner tables. Many people greeted the person, but no one stayed with the person or asked what was wrong or why was he eating alone. I queried about the person’s behavior and found out that the person normally eats alone and my friends did not know about the person’s behavior. May be my conclusion for this person is wrong or because I observed just for a single day, but what I interpreted is that this person had many “so called” friends and none of them were actually the person’s friends.
International student #2
My second observation was to be of a student from my home country (Nepal) who is a senior at the Anderson University. I am trying to include seniors because they have seen everything they have to face and are in the later stages of their undergraduate studies. He shared the following with me:
“At first it was very hard for me to integrate with the culture and as Anderson University is a Christian school, but it was very much different from what I expected. It took time for me to learn the way everything works in the university, the classes, communication with the professors, finding a job and managing a perfect time.” He adds, “I did not have any problem with the food as I was excited to taste new type of food and whenever I was bored with the food, I changed my option. I found the friendships and the way it works around here pretty much strange. They are your friends like for a day and next day they even do not care who you are. This was thing I learned in my first few semesters.”
International student #3
My next person to be interviewed was from Europe as I am trying to cover most of the continents. This student is an American, but brought up in Germany. He shared with me:
“I was brought up in the American school in Germany, so pretty much everything was same. I miss my parents and some of my friends back in Germany. I do not care what kind a school is, for example religion based or not religion based, but school should be a good school where students can gain a complete education. I am doing a major in music business and this school has a great reputation for it.”
This student is my good friend and is a great musician. I see him either playing his keyboard or doing something on his Mac or attending different kinds of meetings around the university. In a way, he is being productive in his freshman year of the college.
International student #4
My last interview was a girl as I do not want to make my research incomplete by not including both the genders. She is a freshman at Anderson University and is an information system and finance major. She said,
“I came to the U.S. because I wanted to get cross-cultural experiences and learn from the differences while in college. I found the classrooms, food and education different from my country. We eat food with lot of spices; it is really different from food in the USA in this sense. Also, we do not eat a lot of animal products as in the USA.I feel that people are so busy that they don’t have time for one another. Also, people are too much indulged in technology, which usually impacts the social life of people in a negative manner. In this small community even a stranger seems to be friendly and nice. And the thing I liked the most about the USA is that the rules are enforced well and in a strict manner. I am from a conservative society and it feels good to be in the same kind of society, in terms of being conservative my society and the society at Anderson University are pretty much similar. I chose Anderson University because it is a small community where it is easy to get along with people, and also maintain a good relation with the professors.”
She is a very hard working student and I always see her studying or doing her student job at the computer science department. Although she is involved with friends, she is of a quite nature.
From this research, I found out that everyone has a different experience of being an international student in the USA and particularly to Anderson University.
Many international students have problem with food as the taste of the food is different from what they have in their country and it is really hard for them to cooperate with it. The other thing that I found was the relationship between people and how can they take the relationship. American students are pretty much of an open nature and they can be friendly with anyone either Americans or international students. But to international students, some may find it welcoming where others may find it a fake gesture.
To me it is surprising that although Anderson University has students from more than ninety countries, it still faces these challenges. It is not easy to be an international student as it is like being born again in a new culture where you have to start everything from the scratch.
Written by ISV Ambassador, Ivaan Shrestha