“In coming to a new environment, most people feel a little uncomfortable,” said Darlene Schmurr-Stewart, dean of international student services, as the meeting for the International Women’s Forum began.
According to Schmurr-Stewart, the purpose of the International Women’s Forum is “to provide a safe conversation support group for women to share their ideas.”
The International Women’s Forum, which is in its second year, is open to all women at Troy University, regardless of ethnicity. American students are welcome to attend the meetings as well.
“We want to discuss issues across cultures and find ways that we can help with issues that international women face when coming to the United States for the first time,” Schmurr-Stewart said.
At the meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, the women focused on the topic of culture shock and how the international women saw life when they came to America.
According to Rebecca Ingram, assistant professor of collaborative education, “there is a cultural expectation for women to always present their best face.”
“Women experience culture shock in many aspects of their lives, including their body image, dress style and height,” Ingram said.
According to Ingram, understanding privacy and space are also important issues to international women.
“There are four stages of culture shock for international women,” Ingram said. “These are the honeymoon stage, the withdrawn stage, the adjustment stage and finally, the assimilation stage.”
According to Abena Adaboh, a junior biomedical science major from Accra, Ghana, the way people greet one another in the U.S. was a shock to her.
“In Ghana, when you greet your elders, it is like a surreal moment,” Adaboh said. “Here, everyone says ‘hi’ and talks to you. I was reserved at first, but I am starting to change and interact more.”
She also mentioned the more lax occurrences of public displays of affection in America than in her home country.
Many of the women discussed the differences they faced in driving when coming to the United States when compared to their home countries.
“It is very different here even though the rules are similar,” said Xiaofeng Chen, a public administration graduate student from Qinhuangdao, China. “In China, no one cares about stop signs.”
“I try to tell the Chinese students when they get here to make sure they are careful,” Chen said. “They have to learn to look over their shoulders when backing up and waiting for it to be clear before pulling out in front of cars.”
Kirsten Rendall, a senior social work major from Bristol, England, said that driving tests are very different in Europe when compared to the United States.
“Driving tests are a lot stricter in Europe,” Rendall said. “They take 45 minutes and you have to do different maneuvers. My driving test here took seven minutes.”
The differences in style and clothing preferences also come as a shock to some international women.
“Wearing shorts or strapless dresses in Nepal, you would get some dirty looks even if your family is okay with it,” said Grishma Rimal, a senior broadcast journalism and political science major from Kathmandu, Nepal. “Oversized T-shirts and shorts would not be acceptable.”
“I have gotten used to it but sometimes I still catch myself wondering about it,” Rimal said. “You feel more free to not worry.”
“In Europe, wearing T-shirts means you are lazy,” Rendall said. “I always felt overdressed when I first got here, but then I realized that’s not for me anymore because it was too hot.”
“You adjust because you feel like you’re an outsider to the norm,” Rendall said.
According to Chen, expressing emotions is very different in China.
“I never heard my mother and father say ‘I love you’ to each other,” Chen said. “You do not talk about feelings in China. The man should know when something is wrong and fix it.”
However, several Chinese students agreed that they have learned to show more emotion in American culture to not offend friends here, while still remaining more reserved in their own culture.
Different topics are discussed at the meetings that occur twice a month, and all women are invited to participate. The next meeting will be held on Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. in Hawkins Hall, Room 36.