A Rough Transition

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43 exchange students met up on Oct. 26 at the 12th annual International Xavier Round table to talk about their experience as an exchange student in America. The event had 23 different countries represented, from South American countries all the way to Southeast Asian. If you walked around the room and picked someone at random to talk to, the chances of you talking to someone who wasn’t from America was more likely than someone saying they’ve seen a cornfield in Iowa.
The location played a key role in the event. With less than five percent of Xavier High School being non-white, there was an overwhelming feeling of curiosity radiating from the students of Xavier. Some took the opportunity to ask questions about how they have liked America and some of the comparisons between their home country and America, but some asked questions that the exchange students found quite offensive.”They asked me if we had water in our country,” Pati Ledesma from Madrid, Spain said,”Like of course we have water, why would you think we don’t?”
Some exchange students told stories of how the people here have been very kind to them since the moment they arrived, but others said the complete opposite.
“[It’s] very hard to make friends.… They laugh at us because we speak a different language and we have an accent when we speak English,” said Aurora Jiang ’20 said when asked what she disliked the most about coming to America.
Jiang talked about how it has been seemingly impossible to make friends and have a good time here in America. She says that she misses her friends and especially her family.
“The Chinese culture is like that. Because the parents can only have one child, [they] give us all the things and they treasure us a lot more because we are the only one. We don’t have siblings so our parents mean a lot to us.”
Jiang says that the only reason she came to America is because her parents wanted a better education for her. Jiang wasn’t the only one that felt extremely out of place in America, Vrushti Bhatt ’18 from India had a similar story to tell.
She had no voice in the decision for her to come live in America. Due to an unfortunate string of events, she had to leave India and come live with her aunt and uncle here.
“For me, it was way far difficult to make friends here, than it was in India,” Bhatt said. “I made new friends easily back home, but I can’t make it here.[…]In new school, people were not that helpful compared to the other school. First two days, they seemed friendly and then as days went, they became busy in their own lives. They kind of didn’t care that much of an international student. I think it is simply because, they don’t realize how an international student feel when they come away from their home country, family and culture.” Bhatt felt similar language and cultural barriers and the inability to connect with the local people that Jiang felt.
Although both Jiang and Bhatt feel a similar feeling of discontent with their situation, they seek to make the most of it as they will be here for a year or more. Jiang plans to pursue higher education in the United States and possibly at the University of Iowa. As for Bhatt, she plans to return to India someday but also make the most out of her time here by learning as much as she can about the local culture and improving her English as much as possible.
Jiang and Bhatt, along with many other exchange students, have told their stories of their stay in America so far; some of the exchange students having a better time than others making friends and having a good time. All in all there was an overwhelming agreement that they all felt fortunate to get the chance to experience and learn about a completely different culture from their own.

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