International Students Adjust to American Life at UMF

International Students Adjust to American Life at UMF

Haiyu Zheng – Contributing Writer

UMF International students are doing a better job in adjusting to American campus life, despite various cultural differences for the first few weeks.

From L to R: Haiyu Zheng, Hui Shao, Clementine Leroy, Mana Abdi, Kasi Pratt, Cheyenne VanDooren, Pauline Barrier, Prescilia Ganache, and Elisa Ducept.
(Photo Courtesy of Cheyenne VanDooren)

The 14 international students/staff members initially had a hard time dealing with the differences in terms of the food, study, and lifestyle. In these 14, there are three language assistants, two staff members, seven exchange students and two J-1 students (International students study here for a degree).

These new members of the UMF community hail from various locations including France, Japan, China, Canada, Tanzania, and Argentina.

Chinese student Wenyi Lu became emotional after recalling an experience where she ran into financial issues.

“I almost wanted to cry when I found my bank account did not work here,” she said. “That was literally my hardest time since I came here.”

“There is a gap between my life in France and here,” said Prescilia Ganache, a French TA. “Everything is so different. The food, our thought patterns, even the way we dress,” she said. She recalled her initial shock when she found students wearing sandals and socks together. “In France, we always dress very formal,” Ganache said.

For some international students, the biggest adjustment has been the American food.

“They have more fat, sugar, and salt in food here compared to what I am used to,” said Clementine Leroy, another French TA. “Also, there are so many spices. I feel frustrated when I get something spicy by accident,” she said.

“I’m glad they try to make International foods that cater to us,” said Yuewei Zhang, a junior from China. “Even if they are fully Americanized.”

Academics were another concern for the International students. They found it hard to get involved in the class discussion. Clementine Gondo-Lescaillet, an International student from France, said that she was so stressed out about her marketing class.

“There were a lot of times when I came up with some ideas but it was too late to share due to my broken English,” she said.

Despite the difficulties, the International students have a positive mind towards the challenges and are trying to enjoy the life and find the beauty of this university.

“I appreciate the relationship between the students and professors,” said Asako Miyazaki, the Japanese instructor. She was surprised to find out the students are very casual in class.

“In Japan, students tend to be polite and always bow every time we see someone who’s older than us,” she said.

Kesuma Mkare, a freshman from Tanzania, said “American students do more sports than the students in my country. I like the idea that everyone wants to try something new.” Mkare was very happy to join the soccer team in UMF. “I got to meet a lot of people and made friends who care about me,” he said.

The International students also get sufficient support from UMF students and faculties.

Leroy was impressed by people’s hospitality. “The people all around the campus are always so friendly. If you have questions, you just go and ask them for help and you could always get more than what you expect,” she said.

The advisor of International Department Lynne Eustis put much effort in helping her students settle in during the orientation week.

“We prior to help them get ready for school life before other students arrive and get to know each other as a group so that they have an immediate network of support from friends, and also get some time to get familiar with the campus, the local downtown area,” Eustis said.   

Stephen Riitano, a CA of Mallett Hall, also has a goal to help the International students adjust to the campus life more easily through some programs with them. “I am trying to be as open and inviting as possible,” said Riitano. “We like to invite the residents to come down and talk about some differences in the cuisine or anything interesting about their countries,” he said.