–by Helianthys Cha–No matter which culture you belong to or which language you speak, you are always welcomed within the Menlo College community. Menlo excels in diversity. In fact, over 25% of our enrollment is international students. Our campus is decorated with flags from different countries around the quad that hang above the Dining Hall, Student Union, and the Bowman Library. Menlo College engages with its diverse group of students by holding an International Day Fair in the quad. On this day, there are booths that represent their different cultures, allowing other students to engage in fun activities such as winning a goldfish, trying different foods, or getting free boba. During the semesters, students interact with one another through cultural clubs like the Filipino Club, Chinese Culture Club, Latinx Club, and more.
Almost all students have to adjust to college life. However, international students have to adjust to the different customs, food, schedules, and English language, and Menlo helps them to do that. Student Sigrid Loid from Stockholm, Sweden says, “People here are very friendly when it comes to greeting each other, people say hi to people they don’t even know, which is uncommon in Sweden.” The friendly environment at Menlo College gives our students a sense of belonging. Student Amiri Sasaki from Nagoya, Japan says, “People here are very flexible, open-minded, and are more accepting. There are so many international students, I feel at home at Menlo, and even if they’re not international they’re very kind.” In terms of flexibility, student Nicholas Liang from Hong Kong, China, finds that he has more time at Menlo for self-study and doing personal projects; whereas in Hong Kong there’s a lot of homework assigned every day. By the time he finished his work in Hong Kong, the day was already over.
Another adjustment students must make is getting used to American food habits and tastes. Some students mention that the hours for the dining hall are earlier compared to the dining hours in other countries. For example, student Celina Husung from Stuttgart, Germany, explains how Germans typically have dinner around 8 or 9pm, which is three hours later compared to Menlo’s Dining Hall. Germans’ biggest meal is lunch rather than dinner, therefore, they usually only have a sandwich at night. American breakfast is also very different to that of Germany’s. According to Celina, in Germany, eggs and bacon are for Sundays and she has never eaten sausage for breakfast before coming to the United States. She also adds, everything is much sweeter in the United States, like the drinks at Starbucks and candies. Student Fredrik Mangset from Oslo, Norway says, “ In general, everything in Norway is more organic compared to America’s selection of food.” However, some students take these food selections as an opportunity to explore. One popular restaurant is Little MadFish (a sushi restaurant in Redwood City) and Panda Express. Other food favourites are tamales, poke bowls, and boba tea.
Most international students do not speak English as their first language. In addition, most Americans don’t realize that they speak English a lot faster than international students. Student Dasa Urba’nkova’ from Czech Republic says, “I have to pay more attention in class to fully understand the lesson because of language barriers.” Some students find it harder to acquire the right words to get their message across because some words, idioms, and phrases are hard to translate into English accurately. In contrast, some students seek comfort in teachers who have similar experience. For instance, Professor Jodi Austin has studied abroad and students feel like she understands the difficulties they face when it comes to speaking a second language in a foreign country.
Community Brought Together
At Menlo College, students appreciate one another’s culture whether it’s through holidays, sports, or being roommates. In terms of holidays, other countries don’t have Fourth of July or Thanksgiving. Student Kiarra Puzon from Manilla, Philippines says, “ One of my favorite American holidays is Thanksgiving. I like the idea of bringing together friends and family. It makes me appreciate where I am.” Another aspect of appreciation for one’s culture can be seen through sports teams. For example, student Rebecca Meehan from Sacramento, California says, “I have learned a lot [while] having international teammates on my basketball team. It’s cool being in a place where I can play with girls from so many different places, versus playing at home with girls based in my hometown.” Another student explains what he learned while dorming with his international roommate, Arslan Siddiqi from San Ramon, California says, “It is an unique opportunity to interact with different ways of life and different styles of living and that knowledge will carry for the rest of my life.” Being in such a diverse campus allows people to interact with different cultures and broaden their perspectives. Student Mehdi Guedira from Arbat, Morocco, summed up his Menlo experience by saying,“Compared to the other colleges I was considered attending, Menlo makes me feel like I belong to a large community of internationals, even though it is such a small school”