Six international students reflect on SMU experience
Julia Lucas, Staff Writer
The Saint Martin’s campus is filled with diversity and different cultures from all over the world. Saint Martin’s website states, “We serve our community by offering many programs which help foster cultural diversity. Every year we welcome students from around the world.” All students at Saint Martin’s have the opportunity to interact with individuals who come from entirely different environments than them. Participating in open dialogue with people who live their lives in different ways promotes healthy communication, and has the potential to develop a more peaceful world.” I interviewed six students at Saint Martin’s, each from a different country. This article will include little pieces of their stories and feelings towards how the United States and Saint Martin’s has treated them so far.
Seungyeon Ham hails from Seoul, South Korea. She has lived in the United States for four months, but has had a difficult transition because of the preparation to get into the country and attend school. Furthermore, everything is different in the U.S. than Korea, and she misses Korean foods. Ham feels very welcomed at Saint Martin’s because everyone is nice to her and the Office of International Programs and Development helped her, along with other international students a lot.
Alex Huang is from China, and has been living in the U.S. for four years now. He says that moving to the United States was a culture shock, and America is interesting. While Huang says he misses his friends and family back home, he humorously mentioned that he does not miss communism. Due to the culture shock, he is still is very shy, despite feeling welcome. Huang is still working on his communication skills, but he is a real comedian.
Shota Iwasawa, from Japan, has lived in the United States for eight months, and has had a very smooth transition. Unlike many other international students, she did not find much difficulty fitting into the American lifestyle, or feeling welcomed into the SMU community. She did mention that having many other international students around has helped with her transition. Iwasawa also stated sentimentally that she misses her dog most from back home.
Sindi Ahmed is from Saudi Arabia and has lived in the United States for six years now. He came into the United States without knowing how to write or speak English, but throughout his six years here, he has learned English and established himself in Washington. Ahmed says that he misses the food back home, but does not miss the hot weather. Admittedly, he said that he actually likes the weather to be rainy and cloudy. When he has finished his studies here, Ahmed plans on staying in the United States to find a better job here than he would at home.
Julia Bor is from Taiwan. She has lived in the United States for seven months, and found great difficulty fitting into American society. She stated that one of the most difficult transitions was the teaching style in the United States. In the U.S., teachers encourage class participation, whereas in Taiwan, teachers simply lecture to the class. When asked if she feels welcome at Saint Martin’s and the United States, Bor responded, “Sometimes I feel welcome, sometimes I don’t. I feel welcome because most people here are friendly and willing to give me a hand. I don’t feel welcome because it is hard to really fit [in with] American people. I feel I [do] not belong to here because I am an Asian.” This statement can be hard to read for many because most people see the United States as a melting pot of people from all different backgrounds, but it may not feel this way for some individuals who are not American. Saint Martin’s may do an excellent job welcoming students from all over the world, but to some, it may feel like the United States is not doing as great of a job.
The final student that was interviewed was KJ Kaminanga from Chuuk, Micronesia. His story is quite different from the five other international students because he was originally born in Washington, but moved to Micronesia when he was 14. Kaminanga had two difficult transitions, but the first was the most difficult. He had an extreme culture shock from Washington to Micronesia because of the lifestyle and language. The lifestyle in Micronesia is significantly different than in Washington. Kaminanga says, “I like the lifestyle back home more because you’re closer to nature and your family. There’s more work involved in our daily lives and you get to see the beauty of the world we live in. It is a real chill vibe.” He found his way back to Washington for college and feels that Saint Martin’s has helped with his transition back by allowing him to see the diversity with the community full of people with different ethnicities. Lastly, Kaminanga said, “SMU’s sense of diversity really brings out the beauty in this school.”
Although these individuals hail from various backgrounds, all six attend Saint Martin’s, and we all run into at least one of them every day. The school we attend is very small, and we each hold the opportunity to know almost everyone who goes here. The rest of the country is a huge place where many people from different countries feel unwelcome. These six stories are from people our age, who are going through the same college struggles as all of us. We should be able to find ways to appreciate all the different cultures in the world, and it can start by having open dialogue with students at our school.