International, out-of-state students deal with culture shock, greasy food and more

Studying in a new place can be can be an exciting, invigorating, and somewhat scary endeavor.  It takes a strong individual to leave home, friends and family to pursue an education in an unfamiliar city.

The International Student Affairs office is currently helping about 300 students adjust to life on campus. To date, over 2,000 international alumni and fifty-five countries are represented.

Senior fashion design and textile technology major Lucile Ragot left Granville, France for better opportunities in the States. A college education in France is very affordableCollege tuition is subsidized and is determined by income.  Regardless of the low cost, extended student and faculty strikes caused a standstill in her education.

Eager to pursue her dreams in fashion design, she jumped at the opportunity to leave France — even if that meant studying in Hendrix, Arkansas. After completing a year in Hendrix, Arkansas, she enrolled at Buffalo State in the fall of 2011, and she is currently in her final semester.

Ragot had difficulties adapting to dormitory life in her first year at Buffalo State, especially when it came to co-ed dorms.

“I only had one year’s experience with dorm life at my old college, and it was an all girls’ dorm,” she said.  “Being mixed with the guys, it made me feel weird and uncomfortable. We had one guy just next to the girl’s bathroom, and he would try to look under our towels every time we’d go to the showers.”

Ragot currently resides in an apartment near campus, and enjoys the Elmwood village lifestyle.  She often walks to school and around the neighborhood, where she discovered something peculiar.

“In the United States most people have cars, and I like walking,” Ragot said. “Sometimes I would walk on roads with sidewalks, which people don’t really use.

“People are not used to seeing people or girls walking. Some people will honk at me or say “hi”, and I would not understand why.”

Food is another important factor. Campus cuisine is typical American fare — burgers, burritos, subs and salads — which may throw off some international students.

Senior fashion design and textile technology Mei Zhen Lin is a resident of Moore Complex. She is thankful to have her own kitchen, so that she may cook her own meals.

“I’m Chinese, it’s very hard for me to adapt to American food,” said Lin, saying that the amount of grease in the American diet makes it hard for her to get used to.

Junior Taryn Palatnikov similarly has distaste for campus food options.

“It would be impossible for anyone who lives there to keep off the freshman 15,” said Palatnikov.

Palatnikov skipped the dorm experience due to her phobia of sharing a bathroom, instead opting as well for an apartment in the Elmwood village. Hailing from Hong Kong, she often provokes confusion when she tells people where she’s from.

“I would get a laugh out of just telling anyone I was from Hong Kong,” she said. “Aside from people looking at me and wondering how a Caucasian could be from there, I was often asked ‘Do you speak Japanese?’ To be clear, Hong Kong is not in Japan!”

Palatnikov decided to study at Buffalo State because of the fashion design program and the flexibility to study other things, which is an advantage of American colleges. The final deciding factor that convinced her to study at Buffalo State was that her brother was studying 15 minutes away, at UB.

Unlike the aforementioned students, senior Kelsey Bashore’s home is just few hours away, in Antwerp, Ohio.  Buffalo State offered her the ability to study fashion and simultaneously pursue a career in volleyball.

Bashore transitioned into her studies and campus life without any trouble, which is another difference between her and international students.

“I got very involved very quickly on campus and kept such a busy schedule that I didn’t have a lot of time to spare,” said Bashore.

Participation in volleyball is an important aspect of her college career and also source of positive socialization.

“I like the people here but I find that it is really easy to form a network of friends as an athlete,” Bashore said. “You are automatically in relation to 400 other students that share some of the same interests.”

A dynamic that all international and out-of-state students have in common is that they are often far from friends and family.  Many students do not physically see their families for months on end. Resources are available to counteract stress and isolation that some students may experience.

The International Student Organization coordinates many activities for international students to socialize and share their cultural traditions with the general student population.  Events include multiple cultural heritage nights, a Whispering Pines camping trip and Thanksgiving dinner. These help to take away some of the loneliness that may set in for those who wish they were back in their own beds.

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