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A Clash of Cultures with Mixed Reviews

Sang Geun Yoon


While many American students enjoyed the Super Bowl game with family and friends, the experience was different for international students studying at LIU Post whom were unaware of this cultural phenomenon. “I didn’t know about the game, was it something fun?” Phuong, from Vietnam, asked. When The New York Giants won the Super Bowl, many students donned Giants jerseys after the game. “I wanted to enjoy the parade, but I felt weird to join a parade when I don’t know why everyone is happy.” Phuong went to play soccer on Superbowl Sunday.

With the number of international students on the rise here at LIU Post, the cultural education may prove more challenging for some than others. Some international students are having a great time, but some are unhappy and report feeling isolated.

Sang tan Park, from Korea, said he was looking forward to making new friends when he came here. He even studied English in Manhattan before coming to Post where he mingled with international students and made friends quickly. But then he came to Post and ran into what he calls a “cultural wall.”

He recalled that time and compares it to his experiences: “There were many international students in city. We did not speak English well. However, we were very happy to know someone from other countries, I believed. I stopped talking to new people since I got here. I get so shy when I speak English to native speakers. It is not hard to talk to Asian students. I think Americans and Europeans do not like Asians. I can feel an invisible wall between Americans and me. I may make the wall myself.”

Kana Takenaka, an exchange student from Japan, says she has been studying at LIU Post for two semesters. When she came to Post years ago, she says, people at Post treated her very nice.

“I am satisfied with my digital art program, teachers are always helpful,” she said. She’s also satisfied with her classes, but she is not especially happy living here. Kana admits that it is “hard for me to integrate with American students.” She said that the school could be more helpful than simply offering the new student orientation. “Events from ISS are always just for international students,” she said. “I think Asian students are afraid of speaking English. They don’t have confidence even though they came here to study English. I am one of them. I think that is really stupid and a waste. The school can give us more help (or opportunity), but if we don’t change, nothing will change.”

Thomas Egnoto is a Music major who transferred here in the fall 2011. “I was so surprised to see so many international students,” he remembered, “I used to know some students from China, but they just don’t say hello when I see them on campus. I don’t say hello anymore. I think Asian guys are boring.”

That is an unfortunate reaction to many Asian students whose reluctance to use the English language for fear of getting it wrong is taken for aloofness.

Not every international student is feeling marginalized. Yuya Hagiwara, from Japan, came to LIU Post two years ago is having a superior time here.

Yuya said, “I really like living at LIU Post. There are so many international students such as people who are from Korea, China, Sweden, Germany, France, India and Japan, which means we have an opportunity to learn another culture briefly. Actually, I have learnt a lot of differences in regard to culture since I came here.” But Yuya also makes a great effort to integrate. “When I have free time, I always visit my friend’s room to chat for a short time and have dinner together. It is so fun for me.” He has also involved himself in many clubs and activities. “Actually,” said Yuya, “I belong to one club called The Newman Club. I went to Mexico to build houses for the poor through this club. Post give us opportunities to participate in a lot of school activities. I like it.” Yuya has become a convert when it comes to understanding how much of a difference making and effort can make. “I thought American students were not interested in communicating with Asians especially,” he said. “However, I was wrong. When I started to communicate with them, they are more outgoing than I thought. We are here. Therefore, we should enjoy this life. Just staying here for studying seems to be boring.”

Some international students were excited when they arrived at Post. Chao Feng, an international student from China, was one of them. “I am so excited to be here, “said Feng. “It is much better than I expected.” He is member of LIU C.H.A.T.S, Conversations Helping and Teaching Students, a service offered by the Office of International Student Service. He said it is very helpful. He has a chat partner, Michael, who is also learning from Chao. “It is a really good experience I think,” said Michael. “It is really hard to study other cultures from books, right? Chao teaches me Chinese culture and I help him improve his English. How good is that?” Chao is in an ESL, or English as a Second Language, course now, and is working at learning English so he can improve his educational and social experiences here. “I can’t wait to finish ESL course and start real college life,” Chao says. He is off to a good start!

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