Tag Archives: international students

Study Abroad? International Student Brings World to USF

For USF students and college goers worldwide, studying abroad is an opportunity to jump on if you want to take a break from American college life. It’s a chance to experience another culture, meet new people, eat different food…the list goes on.

I have not had the opportunity to study abroad just yet, but having lived with an international roommate from China, I have had a cultural learning experience in my own home here in San Francisco. Getting to know Yue Li has opened my eyes to just how life-changing the experience of moving and going to school in another country really is. To my surprise, I’ve also broadened my perspective on my own American culture while living with an international student.

I decided to pick Yue’s brain to learn how she feels about differences between American and Chinese college culture. Yue hopes to divide her time between the U.S. and China after college, she thinks America is “amazing,” and came here to immerse herself in our culture.

Yue told me that international students tend to make friends mainly with fellow international students. Living with Yue has taught me the importance of getting to mingle with the international student population and of understanding another culture from someone in the same situation as you.

As Yue and I discussed differences in social life between China and America, she commented on how late we wake up here, and how she found it odd at first that students hang out in mixed gender groups—she told me that in school in China, girls would mainly hang out with other girls and guys in groups of guys. Yue also appreciated that on-campus living is only required for two years whereas in China, students are typically required to live in the dorms for four years.

Yue sees Friday as a day to relax instead of the kick-off to the weekend, so  despite weekly invitations from my roommates and I to go out, she prefers a Friday night in. Also, Yue saw a noticeable change between the atmospheres of the Chinese and American college classroom. Here, she says, the students are given much more encouragement from the professors to participate in class and finds it interesting that the instructors are willing to learn from their students.

Maybe most surprisingly, I’ve learned that by living with someone from a different culture, I also saw my own culture through an entirely different pair of eyes. So if you want to gain a new perspective on American culture as well as a foreign one, from my experience I would highly suggest befriending, or even living with, an international student!



Student Profile: Abesha Shiferaw-Elfaqir Witnesses Egyptian Revolution and Plans Return to Egypt

Abesha Shiferaw-Elfaqir sees life from the perspective of an Egyptian rebel. While many seniors are focusing on getting into the door of their future employer, Shiferaw-Elfaqir is planning to live out her passion for social justice building on values she learned while growing up and studying in Africa.

Shiferaw-Elfaqir, a senior international relations student, was born and raised in Ethiopia, where she learned the values of family and interdependence. She was taken care of by her godmother and left Ethiopia when she was 7 years old.
Driven by a culture that underlined fellowship and pride in one’s roots when she moved to Seattle, Washington Shiferaw-Elfaqir drew upon the same principals at USF.

The Egyptian revolution had just begun when she moved to Cairo as part of an AMIDEAST Education Abroad program January 2011. The study abroad program allows students to interact with the people of North Africa and the Middle East. Living in an apartment located about two miles from Tahrir Square, Shiferaw-Elfaqir and three other students from other U.S. universities, had, “in the strangest sense, front-row seats” to the protests in Egypt last year.

“We could smell the gun powder and feel the tear gas from our house, and we witnessed the burning down of the National Democratic Party building, but in my month of staying there, I never encountered any bad exerience with the people,” she said.

In the midst of destruction, violence, and corruption, Shiferaw-Elfaqir found an abundance of peace and hospitality. On the first day of protesting, January 25, a cab driver who was wary of the progressing danger offered his cell phone number to her and her roommates, so that he could take them through a safe route to their home after eating a late breakfast and shopping at a bazaar.

A cab drive that would normally take 20 minutes lasted two hours. The driver drove around protesters and barricaded roads.

“This just goes to show how hospitable the Egyptians are. It’s a testament of their strength, which had a profound impact on me,” she said.

During her move to Morocco as part of the study abroad program’s curriculum, Shiferaw-Elfaqir witnessed another social movement take place in Rabat, the central city where protests were happening at the time. Up to 30,000 people marched through the streets demanding solutions to the near-10% unemployment rate, government corruption and the need for education reform. The protesters held a peaceful demonstration, so Shiferaw-Elfaqir was able to attend.

Yet when discussing her study abroad experience, Shiferaw-Elfaqir relates her experience in Egypt to her own cultural upbringing the most.

“Ethiopian culture is very community oriented, so I grew up with this concept of everyone supporting one another and [living] in a very close knit environment,” she said, “Holding each other accountable and supporting each other is such a beautiful concept and reality to me, and I believe in that, so that’s the philosophy I live by.”

Upon returning to USF, Shiferaw-Elfaqir became a founding member of the African Students Association. She said the cultural organization is representative of her personal mission of shining light on the struggles of marginalized people of color. The African Students Association, created in December 2011, is open to all students with the aim to promote a positive image of Africa to the USF community. The group is currently comprised of students from various African countries who share their perspectives on their respective countries, cultures and politics.

“Many people have this idea [that Africa is] synonymous with poverty and destruction. We’re trying to get people to move away from these negative connotations,” Shiferaw-Elfaqir said.

Although she still finds it difficult to describe the revolution and protests she saw during her month in Cairo and her time in Morocco, the current senior said she continues to draw learning lessons from her experience.
“[The revolution] is a historical moment that shows us what can happen in the 21st century — that this world isn’t perfect, that there is something to be changed,” she said.

Upon her graduation this May, Shiferaw-Elfaqir plans to go back to Egypt to work in a non-governmental organization that provides education to refugees.

For more information about AMIDEAST, visit www.amideast.org/abroad/home.

Student Reflects on International Orientation

A lot of you at USF may have just finished your first week of school–a week of awkward ice breakers, getting lost and feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb. All the while the rest of the college is walking around smug in the knowledge they are not freshmen anymore. Well, here is an insight into the international students’ guide not only to USF but also, America!

We were ushered in at a highly uncivilized 8 a.m. on the Thursday before school started. I figured we weren’t ready to meet real live American students just yet. Hopefully the day would help me become hip and hang out with the cool kids. Things kicked off with a healthy dose of human bingo! Nothing like a forced meet and greet game to get everyone comfortable. I met a guy from Cyprus and we took solace in the fact that we were both horrified by this ordeal already. After a few more speeches we ended magnificently with “Go Dons!” and split up into groups. Things started getting deep now as we were given a sheet titled “Core Cultural Values and Culture Mapping.” In a room where English is most people’s second language, handing out sheets displaying monochromic and polychromic personality scales causes a slight stalemate. I could not wait for lunch.

After lunch one of the international team began with a talk about our visas. Within the first 15 minutes most of the 300 Chinese students around me were asleep. Could this be America’s unlikely weapon to eliminate the superpower that is China? Either way we were all split up again and entered the last session of the day. Finally, perhaps most importantly, we were taught a little bit about you, the American. Now, the American is a complicated being, from what I have gathered.

I read an introduction to American students prior to this orientation which told me, “Don’t be surprised if your U.S. acquaintances think that Koreans speak Chinese and Colombia is a city in Mexico. Maybe it’s because the U.S. is such a big place, but some of its residents have little knowledge of the rest of the world.” I wondered what I might learn here. The two main things I learned were that an American will say, “How’s it going?” and not really want to know, and lives in a “bubble.” The bubble surrounds the American with a perimeter of about 3 feet. This bubble must not be burst. If one encroaches upon this bubble the American will move immediately; this was kindly demonstrated by the international staff. We were then shown a short video on the American handshake. This video covered everything from the basics of the handshake, to the rather rare and special American man hug.

After that the day was wrapped up and we were officially ready to meet real live Americans. So don’t forget to give the next international student you meet a very American hand shake; we’ve been trained!

Patrick Gaynor is a junior creative writing and sports science major

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Opinion Editor: Laura Waldron

Chinese Students Ring in Year of the Tiger

Members of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association put on performances and played games to entertain guests and celebrate the Chinese New Year. Photo by Alexander Crook/Foghorn

Dozens of USF students and staff filled Fromm Hall’s Xavier Chapel to celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, on Friday, Feb. 19. The festival was organized by the Chinese Student and Scholar Association to welcome the Year of the Tiger.

Visitors were greeted by a festive atmosphere and a night packed with performances and interactive activities. Slotted in among the many performances were a Chinese comic dialogue, musical performances, and a scene from a Chinese legend acted out as a romantic comedy by members of the Chinese Association. Festival attendees participated in a game of name-that-tune and a poetry competition.

Though 2010 officially began on Feb. 14 by the Chinese lunar calendar, the Chinese Association’s festival fell on the sixth day of the 15-day celebration, which culminates in the Lantern Festival. Throughout the evening, the audience was regaled with the origins and traditions of the Chinese New Year.

“The beginning of the Chinese New Year started with the fight against the beast Nien,” the emcee said. According to legend, she explained, Nien would pillage and destroy the villages, killing children and wrecking crops and livestock. After the monster had its fill, it would not return until the start of the next lunar year.

One year, some villagers noticed Nien fleeing from a child dressed in red. From this myth, the tradition of dressing and decorating in red and using firecrackers to celebrate the New Year was born: to keep the monster away.

Though traditions vary regionally, emphasis is placed on community and togetherness. The sharing of food, usually dumplings or rice cakes, and gift giving are both common practices throughout the Chinese community. The Chinese Association’s festival was no different, treating guests to a Chinese dinner and even asking guests to sport name tags to promote conversation. They served their purpose, as there was hardly a silence during the night. A low murmur of chatter punctuated every presentation and camera flashes bounced off of the bright walls of the room as students photographed their friends on stage.

Yue Song, the President of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, was pleased with the vibrant atmosphere of the festival after logging hours of work in the run-up to the celebration.

“We’ve spent a lot of time preparing. Last week, most of the performers were only getting five hours of sleep a night,” he said. “The celebration for the Chinese New Year is for China what Christmas is for the Western cultures,” a comparison that was made time and again. “It is the most important holiday for Chinese people,” Song reiterated.

Song was also impressed by the high level of attendance, joking that most friends “came for the Chinese food.” Song may have been on target with this, as students and faculty alike wandered from Xavier Chapel and into the foyer, finally retiring to the floor with plates buckling under the weight of dumplings and rice.

The majority of attendees, however, were Chinese students, highlighting the booming population of Chinese international students at USF. According to Song, Chinese students make up the largest chunk of the university’s pool of international students, roughly 250 strong.

For Song and the Chinese Association, the support of this student community by USF, a university renowned for its diversity, was very important to the success of the festival, which was the second of its kind in the past three years. Just as important was the support of the university’s president and figurehead, Father Stephen Privett, who was in attendance.

“USF has a large Chinese population, and it’s important to show them how much we appreciate them and how valued their culture is,” Privett said.

Song stressed that the event was not just an event for the Chinese community, pointing out the elements of other cultures in the festival and its modern undertones. Beyond its more traditional aspects, the program featured an appearance by the USF Hawaiian ensemble, a classical piano performance, and a jazz dance choreographed to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

Senior Lina  Calderón-Morin seconded this sentiment, arguing that this recognition of Chinese culture was tantamount to the appreciation of difference as a whole.

“I love Chinese New Year because it’s a celebration of life not just for the Chinese community, but a time when we can share and enjoy the rich diversity of our city and University,” Calderón-Morin said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Center for the Pacific Rim, International Relations, and the Chinese program.