Studying abroad in different countries and continents can have a major influence on a student and can be a life changing experience, but have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a study abroad student at St. Kate’s? What must it be like to come from another country and go to school all the way in midwestern America? What does Minnesota look like through the eyes of an international student?
There are a host of unique issues that studying abroad in America presents. We’re likely all aware of the requests to stay on campus over the breaks, such as the recent Thanksgiving break, and that it’s very difficult to stay unless your home is more than 500 miles away.
For most of us, that is not the case, but it is for international students. Unfortunately, most international students are unable to go home.
According to Makabongwe Ngulube ’16, an International Relations major, who is the president of St. Catherine International Student Organization (SCISO) and an international student herself from Zimbabwe, there are some international students who live so far away that the plane rides can take over 20 hours.
Thankfully, the MIPS office offers international students the opportunity to be “adopted” by a local family during the holidays so that they have a nice home to enjoy them in.
If you’re curious about what the experiences of international students are like, Ngulube says, “Most of us are willing to share our experiences with other students. Other students should feel free to ask us questions, we love to engage in conversations.”
As is always the case, if you don’t understand something about someone’s culture or life, it is always best to ask them. Without doing so, there is the chance of misunderstanding. Ngulube, for example, struggled with people assuming that she could speak for her whole country, and sometimes continent.
“Coming from a country in Africa, it is presumed that I understand and can explain the Ebola epidemic that swept West Africa last year and this is not necessarily true.” She also mentions that international students often are stigmatized for their accents and are asked rude questions at times about how they learned English.
Despite the fact that there is not a vast number of students at St. Kate’s that are international students, they are a very close-knit community through SCISO. They hold weekly meetings to plan events such as Africa Night and International Education Week. It is also a great way for international students to form a social network of support.
The club also brings awareness of various cultures through their events like Africa Night last November. These events are meant to bring information to people who might otherwise be too shy to ask someone upfront about their culture. It’s an easy way to learn a lot about the cultures you might not have been exposed to yet, so the next time that you have an international student in a class, remember to keep an open mind and ask them questions if you’re unsure about anything.
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