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Real Warriors: International Students Make Mark On Campus

By Hannah Lee ’17

Staff Writer

 

It is no question that Merrimack is growing, both the campus and the student body. With more students being admitted, the more international students you will notice around campus.

For being a small school Merrimack has an impressive about of students from other countries.

In total, there are 117 undergraduates and 94 graduate students at Merrimack. This past fall, 24 of these undergraduate students stepped foot on campus for the first time, along with 23 graduate students and four pre-masters students.

Currently, students on campus are representing 37 different countries. There are students from all over the world — from Haiti to Nepal to Uzbekistan.

Students often study abroad for a semester or two, but to study in another country for four years is very remarkable. So, at 18 years old, what is it like to leave home to another country that doesn’t speak your language knowing almost no one? We caught up with two international students at Merrimack to see what they had to say.

 

 

Aasmund Joedhal

Hamar, Norway

Freshman, Undecided

    Q: What made you choose the U.S. for college as opposed to staying in your home country or any other country?

    A: To come here was a great opportunity for me to combine soccer and education. My dream is to become a professional soccer player, and this is an ideal way to continue my journey toward it.

 

    Q: How did you learn English?

    A: I have being learning English since the third grade. We also rarely dub our TV shows and movies. This goes for kids movies and shows as well. This exposes children to the English language from an early age.

 

    Q: How did you hear about Merrimack College?

    A: The coach of the soccer team contacted me and wanted me to play here.

 

    Q: How is the education system similar or different from your home country?

    A: An undergraduates degree is only three years in Norway, and not four like it is here. Also, the school mostly only offers one type of education, so you have to decide what you want to do. You can’t go in undecided and find out what suits you after a year or so.

 

    Q: What has been your biggest struggle with American schooling?

    A: I haven’t really struggled with anything. There are of course some words that I don’t understand, but I am usually able to figure out what they mean from their context. If I have to pick anything, I would say that waking up for my 8 a.m. classes is the biggest struggle.

 

    Q: What has been the biggest culture shock coming to the U.S.?

    A: I haven’t really experienced any culture shock yet. If anything, I have to say that some of the food is different.

 

     Q: What do you miss most about home?

    A: I miss my friends and family obviously. I also miss Norwegian chocolate and my mom’s cooking.

 

    Q: Do you have a favorite American food yet?

    A: S’mores ice cream!

 

    Q: What advice would you give a student coming to the U.S. for college?

    A: Be open minded and enjoy yourself! It’s an experience of a lifetime which you will never forget!

 

Mayuka Watanabe

Osaka, Japan

Senior, Psychology

    Q: What made you choose the U.S. for college as opposed to staying in your home country or any other country?

     A: I did not have any specific ideas about what I was going to do for my career, but the only thing I was sure about was that I wanted to work abroad or globally. So, I thought it would be more beneficial for my future career if I would get a degree from a U.S. college.

 

    Q: How did you learn English?

    A: After I graduated from high school, I went to Canada for a year to learn English. I attended ESL school for 6 months to get basic skills and worked at a local café for 6 months to actually use English in the real world.

 

   Q: How did you hear about Merrimack College?

   A: I did a lot of research on colleges, like which one would fit me the most. I was looking for one that is not too big or not too small, good environment, student involvement, etc.

 

   Q: How is the education system similar or different than your home country?

   A: In my country, Japan, getting into college is the hardest part and graduating from it is not as hard. So students tend to study really hard while they are in high school, and once they are in college, they do not study (way more students work part-time than American students).

 

   Q: What has been your biggest struggle with American schooling?

   A: Class participation. In my culture, teachers do not encourage us to have discussion much. So we rarely speak in front of classmates or have discussions in the classroom. So speaking up in class was the hardest thing to get used to and overcome.  

 

   Q: What has been the biggest culture shock coming to the U.S?

   A: How everyone has their own opinion and it is okay to say they don’t agree with one another. As I said, in Japan, we are not encouraged to speak our own opinion, and we are so used to not having our own opinions or share them. So when I saw everyone expressing what he or she thinks and how they feel honestly was surprising. Also, Japan is a very collectivistic culture that we care more about a group than individuals. So we tend not to argue even if someone has different opinion than yours, but in the U.S. everyone would argue if they want, so it was shocking.

 

    Q: What do you miss most about home?

    A: Family and friends. I have been living abroad for almost 4 years, and I don’t get homesick anymore, but it is still hard not to be able to see them whenever I want, and I feel like it will always be this way.

 

    Q: Do you have a favorite American food yet?

    A: I just like that we have more access to other culture’s foods in the U.S.. Because of its diversity, I get to try different food from different cultures, and I love that about American food culture.  

 

    Q: What advice would you give a student coming to the U.S. for college?

    A: Just be open-minded, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Just try to be involved in different things because there are so many opportunities out there that you may not know before. And you may feel inferior because you don’t speak perfect English, but you should be proud of attending a U.S. college and studying in your second (or third) language!