CLARION, Pa. – Eight foreign exchange students at Clarion University shared their experiences in the U.S. at the “International Student Panel” Tuesday Dec. 3 in the Still Hall Auditorium.
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Each student hails from a different country across the world. The students who spoke at the panel are as follows: Ahmed AlDhahri (Saudi Arabia), Anastasia Bates (England), Anh Lu (Vietnam), Chisom Obiezu-Umeh (Nigeria), Ryo Ogura (Japan), Angele Schembri (Malta), Mario Serrano (Ecuador) and Emmelie Ylinenpaa (Sweden).
“It’s great for the university because the students who are mostly just from Pennsylvania get exposed to people from whole different worlds and cultures,” said international programming and study abroad coordinator Raymond Feroz.
Two topics discussed by the panelists were culture shock and homesickness.
“I miss a lot of things over there [Ecuador],” said Serrano, who is from Quito, Ecuador’s capital. “For example, talking in Spanish. Here, there’s a couple of people who I can speak Spanish to. It’s a big experience. It’s totally different.”
Serrano said he chose to come to Clarion because he heard the university had a good business program and that some of his family live close by.
Lu talked about differences in American and Vietnamese culture, including social behavior, food and education.
“A culture shock I had was in the classroom, how the students treated the professors. I thought it was really disrespectful a lot of times,” said Lu, who used examples of students putting their feet on tables and chairs, and how they address professors.
Lu also spoke about how controversial subjects like sex are talked about openly in America, but is frowned upon in Vietnam.
After each panelist spoke about their experiences, a question-and-answer segment followed. One question asked was about each panelist’s respective country’s stereotype of America was.
“Growing up, all you would see is “High School Musical,” you see “16 and Pregnant” and you see all the movies with the quarterback and the mean cheerleaders, and that’s really what you have in America,” said Ylinenpaa. “But I know a lot of American people, and that’s not the case.”
University president Karen Whitney closed the panel, saying having the foreign exchange students in Clarion is beneficial.
“You honor us with your presence,” said Whitney. “We are a better university because you are here, and we have a better unity because you are here.”
Study Abroad vice-president Stephanie Lightner said having the exchange students is “very enjoyable.”
“I love hearing about different cultures, and I feel like other students share that sentiment, so I definitely think people learned a lot. I did myself,” said Lightner. “It’s good to have all the different aspects and ideas of the world.”