From East to West

By April 6, 2018April 10th, 2018No Comments

The following post was written by Lauren Jurczyszyn, an undergraduate students studying Communications at Oakland University.

It’s no shock that cultural norms are different across the globe. Ask any international student what stands out the most, and they all have varying responses.

After meeting with several international students, it appeared that the most frequent, cultural differences revolved around language, dress, and dating.

To dive deeper into these cross-cultural differences, I sat down with three different students all from different pockets of the world.

The first student I met with was Rasha Al Bashaireh, a PhD student from Jordan studying computer science.

After a few moments discussing what it was like to be an international student, differences naturally came up.

“Families and financial responsibility are very different in Jordan than they are here in America. Back home, young people are considered dependent on their family. Here in America, you turn 18 and most people are out on their own. Tuition and education become an individual burden to carry rather than a familial responsibility.”

On the topic of education, Rasha revealed that the U.S. education system is actually really similar to the Jordan system. In fact, it was one of the factors that contributed to her pursuing her studies here at Oakland.

“Back in Jordan, college education consists of a few different components. You have your coursework, your exams, and your research projects. It’s very similar, you see. However, back home we don’t place as much value on written assignments. I suppose that is one difference, but not major. That is why many of us pursue higher education here. It’s familiar, but the caliber is greater.”

Interested in what Rasha had meant by caliber, she explained the differences between degrees in the U.S. and the UK.

“In the UK you mostly do research, so while the subject of study is the same, there’s a lot less time being spent on overarching areas of the subject. We see a U.S. degree as more prestigious because it requires more additional work to be done. “

Another different Rasha had brought up was the dress.

“Being from Jordan, there are obvious differences as well as personal differences. I wear a scarf, and that’s not the cultural norm here in the U.S., though many wear one as well. Americans are a lot more comfortable showing more of themselves in the clothes they wear, not so much back home.”

Kaitlyn Woods, and international student from Australia also commented on dress being a difference, but in a way you wouldn’t expect.

“I’m from Australia, so really some things aren’t much different. We wear really similar fashions, but the words we use are really different.”

When I asked what she meant, she told me a story about sandals.

“I’ve written about this before, but it’s my favorite story. Someone asked me once what it’s like to be from Australia, and I was describing the weather, what we do and then I said ‘oh yeah we all walk around in thongs’ and then the conversation got awkward and I didn’t know why. Then I got home and realized that thongs don’t mean flip flops in America like they do back home.”

Another difference international students realize is dating culture in America.

Rasha commented on this while we were talking, saying that it’s not usual for people back home to date.

“You can hang out in public places and talk online, but it’s never just you and the other person. You aren’t publically seen alone until after the wedding.”

Ayomide Yusuf, an international student from Nigeria, had mentioned once before in conversation that dating back home was also much different.

“There, we would ideally find our mate with someone from the village we grew up in who our family approved of. It’s almost unheard of to be with someone from outside.”

With some prominent differences at the forefront of the international experience, it can be easy to wonder what is the same. The answer? The relationships made as an international student. Each individual student encountered all spoke highly of the friends they have made in the U.S. while studying internationally.

Rasha said it best when commenting “You just find comrades in your studies. In computer science I have both American and international friends. We discuss class, we attend events, and we experience the same thing through different lenses. I love that I have company that both understands the international experience intimately, but also celebrates it as a new adventure with me.”

Written by Lauren Jurczyszyn