For students who wanted to gain knowledge and ask international students about their cultures, a forum called “Don’t be Shy, Ask Me Why” was held Tuesday, the first day of International Education Week.
On the panel were students from Switzerland, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Japan, Germany and China, among others. Questions that students submitted last week were read, and the representatives answered the questions according to their background and knowledge.
Talal Alamani, senior information systems major from Saudi Arabia, was one of the representatives on the panel. He said he volunteered for the spot because he “would love to send the right image.”
Some of the questions applied to all of international students, such as, “Why did you choose to come to Emporia?” The answers were generally that Emporia State offers the programs students wish to enroll in, along with reasonable tuition. Another general question was what foods and ingredients students miss most.
Most of the representatives agreed that the biggest adjustment to living in the United States was the climate and diet, but also the realization that some things said in their culture might be offensive to Americans.
Some taboos in different cultures range from swearing and drinking alcohol in Saudi Arabia to not addressing elders by their first name or giving a clock as a present (“clock” sounds like death, so it is considered bad luck) in China. Also, in Azerbaijan, men are supposed give their seat to women on public transportation.
One question to Americans was, “If you are already carrying a backpack, why carry a purse also?” The American representative Kat Fox, senior English education major, said that she was unsure because she only carries a backpack.
A question to international students was, “If you come to America to learn English, why do you mostly hang out with people from your own country?” The consensus was that it deals mostly with a comfort zone because it is sometimes hard to make friends from different backgrounds and because international students like to talk in their native language.
Another topic brought up was why some Americans don’t talk to international students during class. Fox said she thought it might be because many international students dress more fashionably and have traveled more than some Americans, so it might have to do with being shy and not feeling sophisticated enough to talk to them. One of the audience members suggested that it might also be because many Americans don’t know how to talk long enough to find common ground.
How to make friends with Americans was another question. Most of the representatives agreed that, overall, Americans are friendly, so the best way to do it is to ask for help if needed, speak to them in class and ask questions to get to know them.
“It’s an opportunity to mingle with more international students than you would normally come in contact with,” said Dirusha Warusavitharana, graduate clinical psychology major from Sri Lanka. “It’s like people were saying on the panel, you’re much more comfortable in your comfort zone. You stick to the people you know mostly.”