U.S. flavor

For the most part, international students enjoy their time in America

Bora Kaykayoglu, sophomore computer design and engineering major, works on a computer animation at his desk. Aside from school work, Kaykayoglu is an avid soccer fan who has played the sport both in Turkey and the United States.

Abby Fisher | Daily Ken

Credit: Ron Soltys

Keiko Fukunaga kneels five feet away from the television screen, shoveling spoonfuls of chocolate-marshmallow ice cream into her mouth.

Inspired by a recent trip to Coldstone Creamery, she’s mixed the ice cream herself, mashing mini marshmallows and chocolate sauce into a few scoops of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream.

Tonight, “American Idol” is on.

“It is like ‘Asean,’ a show from Japan,” she says, scraping the Styrofoam bowl clean.

Fukunaga, 22, who has spent the past school year away from her Hiroshima home, does all she can to experience America while she is here.

“I think ‘American Idol’s judges are strict, especially Simon,” she says, standing up to throw her bowl away. “I think ‘American Idol’ is better than ‘Asean.'”

At just over five feet tall, Fukunaga has to stand on her tiptoes to reach a trash bag from its shelf. She opens the folds of the bag with dainty fingers and flicks her wrists to open it further. Then she carefully presses the bag into the can and tosses the foam dish in.

“I like American theater,” she says, tucking a strand of short reddish black hair behind her ear.

During winter break, she and some Japanese friends traveled to Boston. While there, she saw “Wicked,” a musical about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.

“‘Wicked’ was … ” she fumbles with her electronic translator for a moment. She presses keys, pauses and reads.

Unsure, she continues, “‘Wicked’ was wicked.”

Makiko Suzuki, a friend who also went to “Wicked,” agrees.

“It was amazing and beautiful,” Suzuki says. “I liked all the songs.”

Although she loves most American cuisine, Fukunaga had a hard time saying goodbye to Japanese food.

“I tried not to think about Japanese food,” she said.

Every now and then, she and Suzuki take the bus to an Asian market 15 minutes from campus, but lately Fukunaga tries to eat more easily accessible American food.

Even though getting used to a new diet was hard, building relationships with American students has been easy for her.

Some have been friendly, and some have not been so nice, but most of all, she said she believes Americans are straightforward.

“It is easy to say own opinions in America,” she says.

Contact news correspondent Caitlin Saniga at [email protected].

Bora Kaykayoglu, sophomore computer design and engineering major, wasn’t afraid to come to the United States. Kaykayoglu is as much at home at Kent State as he was in Istanbul, Turkey, and he makes attending college in a new country seem easy.

How did he end up at Kent State?

Kaykayoglu’s father is dean at a college at his home in Turkey. The college has a program where students who have completed high school can attend Kent State to earn a degree. Kaykayoglu, who grew up in Turkey, attended high school in Georgia for a year. He felt it was easy to come to Kent State.

Kaykayoglu turned 20 on Valentine’s Day. He seems content at Kent State, where he earns high Cs and Bs in his classes and balances a social life and job as a lab assistant with the College of Technology. He says it wasn’t hard to adjust to a different culture.

“I know what teens do,” he says. And he knows how some American students approach college life.

“OK, here’s the thing,” he says, leaning forward. “When you guys come to college, some people go wild, crazy I mean.” He laughs.

Kaykayoglu is not the type to surrender to negative peer pressure, even as he is surrounded by a new culture. He looks self-assured and comfortable, sitting back in the brown blazer he wears over his green zip-up. His brown eyes dart around the Hub as he speaks, taking in his surroundings.

Kaykayoglu has no trouble keeping busy. He works 10 hours a week and spends the weekends with friends. His cousin is also a student at Kent State, and the two watch Turkish soccer via satellite TV. They tune in early on Saturday mornings because of the time difference.

Keeping busy prevents homesickness, he said, so doesn’t miss his family too much. Either way, he’ll see them when he returns to Istanbul this summer.

Kaykayoglu’s only complaint about the college and its surrounding city is the size. Kent is a lot smaller than Istanbul, a bustling city of about 15 million people, and there isn’t a sea near Kent to look toward.

“You always want to see the sea,” he said. “You feel better.”

Contact news correspondent Kristine Gill at [email protected].