Internationals unphased by barriers
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 16:10
On a quiet Saturday morning, with the beginning of autumn filling the air, some recognizable students gathered around the fountain in front of the Reng Student Union at Arkansas State University.
Chihiro Sato, a sophomore criminology and sociology major of Yokohama, Japan, sported a purse that looked more like a duffle bag, tennis shoes and light sweater were more comfortable than someone wearing combat boots and a blazer.
Sato and other international students were waiting for the 10 a.m. bus that took them around town. From the Turtle Creek Mall to Walmart to Kroger and then back to campus, students held backpacks and adjusted their shoe laces, preparing for the trek that is grocery shopping.
Sato boarded the bus that wasn’t just filled with international students. This wasn’t just the “Asian bus” everyone on campus seemed to call it. Both international and domestic students were on the bus.
“I use the school shuttle bus once every two weeks,” Sato said. “To be honest, I don’t feel that I have a difficulty because our school has a nice shuttle bus service.”
Sato said she chose to go to school at A-State because of the location, tuition and environment.
“There are a lot of Asian and Japanese students here, but the number of those students is less than other universities. It helps improve my English,” Sato said. “I like this small campus. There are a lot of nice services and not only for Americans, but also for international students.”
Once at Walmart, everyone got off the bus and Sato headed towards the carts.
A male international student was helping hand out the carts to everyone since the door greeter wasn’t there. Sato didn’t have any trouble getting around the store.
She couldn’t find a product and an older woman who was shopping in the same aisle as her approached her and asked what she was looking for. They both looked around until a friend found what she was looking for.
“It’s not really hard if we have good friends who can encourage each other and trust each other,” Sato said. “We might have more hassle or stress than American students do because of the language barrier.”
Nakeli Hendrix, student immigration specialist at the International Student Center, said that there are many things international students have to get accustomed to in America.
“When they first get here, of course it’s a culture shock. It’s not a big city like Miami or New York where there is maybe a lot of services or resources for them. I think the biggest issue is probably transportation.” Hendrix said
“We’ve heard also about food, it takes a little bit getting used to the new food,” Hendrix continued. “Also American teaching methods might be different in their countries, trying to figure out what professors want, the relationships between students and professors may be different, and also it’s the first time they’re away from home.”
Sato was very aware of the time she had until the next bus stop. She had a list ready and would often run into other international students who would help her find the next item on her list.
“Because of the language, sometimes I cannot be understood and I get frustrated about it. Talking with friends, professors, store staff is not a problem, but talking at the bank about my card and account is a little difficult,” Sato said.
Hendrix said that international students are very involved on campus, regardless of the language barrier.
“We have a lot of business students. We also have students in the ABI who work in the sciences, a lot of computer science,” Hendrix said.
Sato is one of many international students who has to overcome barriers that derive from a difference in culture and language, but international students go through some of the same experiences and situations as domestic college students. They are worth getting to know and befriend.