Foreign students find home on campus

Trevor Ivan

For Krittika Chatterjee, a freshman English major from India, studying in America has been a life-long dream.

“Even though I’d wanted to (study in America) since I was a child, the dream didn’t become a reality until last year,” Chatterjee said. “I had a friend who studied here at Kent State who told me about how nice things were here. That’s when I decided to do it.”

The university is looking for ways to increase the number of international students enrolled at Kent State as well as promote study abroad opportunities for current Kent State students.

Both types of international exchange allow students to experience cultures and perspectives that are different from their own, said Ken Cushner, the university’s executive director of international affairs.

Chatterjee, who wants to work as a translator for the United Nations, said she came to Kent State to enhance her employment opportunities.

“Many high-paying jobs prefer someone who was educated in America than in India,” Chatterjee said. “I hope to be able to represent my country in the work that I do.”

Debra Lyons, an immigration assistant with the department of International Student and Scholar Services, said international students choose to study in America becasue a degree from an American university is held in high esteem in the international community.

“(International students) have a better chance of employment and a better chance of working in America,” Lyons said. “They also want to make their families proud since their families are often the ones working hard to send them here.”

Chatterjee said she is used to Western culture in her home country. During the last 10 to 15 years, she said there has been an increase of things like American clothing, fast food and music in India.

“Everything is suddenly coming in,” she said. “It’s very exciting to see all of these things. Even the older generation is excited about it being there.”

Chatterjee said she has been exposed to even more American perspectives since she arrived.

“It’s cool whenever I’m just hanging out and partying with my friends,” she said. “I’m able to see what Americans think, and (I am able to) experience how they feel about a lot of world issues.”

Chatterjee said she has also experienced some major differences between American and Indian culture. One of them is the educational system.

“In India, we had to memorize textbooks,” she said. “When we were studying the First World War, we had to write out 15 pages of information about it.”

She said this contrasts to taking multiple-choice tests and writing several papers throughout the semester in the United States.

Americans also have a widespread ignorance about many issues happening in other parts of the world, Chatterjee said.

“I have a friend from Turkmenistan, and an American student asked him if they spoke Romanian there,” she said. “(The American student) just grouped everyone from that part of the world together in his mind.”

On the other hand, Chatterjee said Americans are more accepting of differences between people.

“In America, you are still popular and accepted even if you don’t get dressed up a certain way to come to class or listen to a certain type of music,” she said. “Americans are very cool.”

Carolyn Sampson, coordinator of two study abroad programs run by the Honors College, said American students can also benefit from this type of cultural exchange by studying internationally because students are immersed in the culture they are studying in.

“This type of experience is different than being a tourist,” Sampson said. “You’re able to join organizations, attend classes and go out for the weekend with friends you make.”

An international experience can even affect a student’s future plans, she said.

“Students look for the best school in which to complete a master’s program,” Sampson said. “However, an international experience often changes a student’s mind as to what the best school really is since the student is exposed to different educational programs.”

Sampson said the most significant impact is the change in a student’s understanding of the world.

Contact Honors College and international affairs reporter Trevor Ivan at [email protected].