Opportunities to study abroad and experience foreign cultures can be exciting for some students, or nerve-wracking for others.
Australian exchange student and communication major Alex Richter, 20, Slovakian exchange student and art major Katarina Siposova, 23, Scottish exchange student and communication major Alasdair Murray, 25, and South Korean exchange student and economics major Sohyun Kim, 24, all came for a semester on an exchange program to study in the U.S. at SRU.
For the four of them, coming to SRU was an opportunity to visit America, experience an American college and also an opportunity to travel around.
Richter said a big reason for coming to SRU was the on-campus living because, back in Australia, he had to drive to his college. Murray said he was happy to be in a smaller university where he didn’t feel overwhelmed. Siposova said she got offered a scholarship from Slovakia to come here, and therefore that was the convenient decision. Kim said that she wanted to learn English and live on campus so that she could get to know people better.
When asked about culture shock, their answers varied.
“I experienced culture shock in the beginning and you can’t really pass through that – you just have to adapt,” Richter said.
For Siposova, the culture shock was the different academic system, and that “people are nice but in a different way.”
“I was not used to being asked the question, ‘How are you?’ 20 times a day and people don’t even wait for your reply,” Siposova said. “They just walk away.” She added that she overcame the shock by ignoring some things or just getting used to them.
Kim said there was little culture shock for her because she had prepared herself for American life.
“I didn’t experience much of a culture shock because I have seen American college life in movies and TV shows, and I also had some friends from America before I came here, so I knew about their culture,” Kim said. “One thing that is different from Korea is that we don’t express our opinion in class but here they raise their hand and they just speak. I think this is a good thing.”
Kim said the most memorable moment from her trip was meeting with her host family, because she said they turned out to be really nice and helpful, and gave her an opportunity to work on her English.
Richter said different aspects of his stay in the U.S. were enjoyable.
“The most memorable thing for me here was going to London for Spring Break for one of my subjects here,” Richter said. “On campus, that would be the ARHS Prom Night back in February.”
For Siposova, the most memorable aspects of attending SRU for the semester were the opportunities that the art department provided students for traveling around America.
While all four students had different experiences from their stay, they all agreed that SRU is a welcoming environment.
“There was a person who waited for me when I arrived, someone who showed me around Slippery Rock, and my roommate welcomed me too,” Siposova said.
Murray said the experiences in the classrooms at SRU proved to be more personable compared to other universities.
“I think it is admirable how much the teachers do considering that the classes are so big here and they still try to pay individual attention to everyone,” he said.
Kim said the experience of coming to the U.S. to study was positive, but some students didn’t know how to handle interaction with foreign students such as herself.
“SRU is a welcoming environment, but I think that some students are not open to foreign students or are not interested in exchange students because we are not American, so they expect us not to be able to speak English very well, so they don’t ask me anything in class,” she said.
When asked if they would stay for one more semester, if given the opportunity, they said they would embrace that, except for Siposova.
“I think that one semester was enough for me here, because the art department here is not very strong and it won’t be beneficial for me to stay for another semester,” she said.