The United States is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but it is also the land of cheeseburgers and the home of football played with hands. For many of the international students, U.S. society is entirely different from their homes and it comes with its own variety of cultural shocks. Staff writers Valario Johnson and Victoria Lynn sat down with some of our international students to ask them how different they found the U.S. from what they had expected and what their experience living here so far has been like.
Guillermo Herrera, a freshman computer science major from Santa Tecla, El Salvador said he was very anxious about coming here because he had heard so much about racial stigmas in the U.S.
“The idea that Central America has about America is that Americans hate Latinos,” Herrera said.He said that at home, they think Americans do not like immigrants. “I don’t hate Americans, but because I’m Latino, I thought I was going to be discriminated against,” he said.
Herrera’s outlook quickly changed during his flight’s layover in Birmingham.”People in Birmingham were so amazing,” he said. At a hotel in Birmingham, Herrera met someone who began to talk to him about how great of a school Troy University is. “He gave me his contact information and everything,” he said. “He was really cool. This was a huge surprise to me.”
Herrera said he is enjoying America so far but wishes he had more of his home-style food choices available.When asked what he liked about Troy, Herrera said “Everything. The buildings are so much different. Troy has so much more technology, and the infrastructure seems to be well taken care of.
“In a college in El Salvador, you will never see a gym or pool. It’s better here. Even the education is better. People in El Salvador don’t take classes that seriously.”
He said people in El Salvador study because they follow behind others, not because of their own aspirations. He said that here in America, people have a vision, and he is inspired by that.
Maximilian Bauer, a freshman global business management from Munich, Germany, said that his expectations were similar to what he found when entering the U.S. two weeks ago. He expected everything to be bigger in the U.S. “At fast food restaurants, the XXL size in Europe is the (regular size) meat in America,” he said. Bauer’s first impression of the U.S., when he flew into Montgomery, was that it was hot and humid. “You walk a mile and you are soaking wet,” he said. Bauer also noted the patriotism displayed through flags hoisted everywhere, more so than in Germany.
Madina Seytmuradova,a freshman history major from Dashoguz,Turkmenistan, said it is not difficult to figure out a big difference between her home and the U.S. “Here, everyone says ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’,” she said. “They even hold doors, which is not something I expected.
“The biggest difference is the way people act towards strangers. Here, if you smile at someone, you can be certain that they will smile back. At home, when strangers interact with you, it has to have a purpose.” Seytmuradova said hospitality is not as prevalent in Turkmenistan.
Seytmuradova did an exchange program in Indiana called Future Leaders Exchange Program, and one thing she noticed was different was the way people talked. “In Indiana, people enunciated the letters in words, but here, they slur their words,” she said.
Seytmuradova said her expectations have been exceeded ten-fold. “I don’t want to forget any of this. It always seems like an adventure is happening. Everything is just so interesting.”
Nejla BenMimoun, a senior finance major from Djerba, Tunisia, envisioned a darker U.S. where she would be bullied and harassed for being a Muslim; what she has found in her two weeks here though is a friendly community and the famous Southern hospitality of Alabama. She said she loves it so far. “The teachers have different styles of teaching so you can learn in different ways,” BenMimoun said. “They have more interaction so it makes you want to learn. It is very fun.” BenMimoun is living in Trojan Village and loves her room and her roommates. In Tunisia, her college was one building with no dorms or extra amenities, so the Troy campus seems huge to her.
“I thought all the cities (in the U.S.) were big,” said Guilherme Rampon, a senior global business and marketing major from Caxias do Sul, Brazil. “Before I came to America, I looked up (the city of) Troy, and when I looked it up, I found that it was actually very small.” Even though he found that Troy was a small town, Rampon did not expect to walk so much.
“One thing that surprised me, is that everything is spread out,” he said. “I felt really dependent when coming to the U.S. For everything, you need a car. In Brazil, you can walk to almost everything.”
When asked what he likes about Troy University, he said “everything. I like the people. In Brazil, we don’t have residence halls. In Brazil, you live at home.” Rampon said being able to build a community and close ties with friends in the dorm is what he enjoys the most.
Andrew Zarah is an international relations graduate student from Mundri, South Sudan. Zarah’s first impression of the U.S. came before his plane even touched down at the Atlanta airport. “Before landing,” he said. “I looked out of the window and saw all of the lights on the cars and buildings and I was like ‘Wow!’” The different lights of the city shocked him and made him realize just how large this country is.
Zarah said that he loves Troy because there are a lot of international students here on campus. “Everyone is a family,” he said. “All of the international students, and even the Americans, are always there to help when you need it.” Zarah is confident that his English has improved since coming to the U.S. in 2008. Overall, he loves the U.S. and Troy.
Thuy Nguyen a junior financial economics from Hanoi, Vietnam expected an America focused on the American dream, where everything was about working. She said the most surprising thing for her was “how friendly everyone was and how willing they were to help.” She appreciates people’s individual freedoms in the U.S. that are more limited in Vietnam, such as the freedom of speech and thought.She also appreciates the modern technology and advancement of the buildings and transportation of the U.S. “No one looks down on me for being Asian and I am very grateful for that,” Nguyen said.
For Mac-jane Chukwu, an international relations graduate student from Lagos, Nigeria, the U.S. was not exactly what she was expecting. “I was told that it was cold,” she said. “I came in August and it was so hot. I had packed so many sweaters and I didn’t need any of them. It was almost as hot as Nigeria.”
Chukwu was also surprised by the friendliness of the people in the community. She said that, “even if they don’t want to say hello, they will nod and smile at you.” As a country, Chukwu recognizes that the U.S. gives people the opportunity to freely express themselves. “There are a lot of positive things here that I wish could be done in Nigeria,” she said.