Patryk Golinski, Guest Writer
Being a student is not easy. There’s all the different classes full of homework, assignments, projects, quizzes and papers that you have to do almost every week. But have you thought about what it would be like to study in a different country in a language different than your native one?
Jon Osa is a freshman at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and a part of the school’s swim team. He comes from Spain and everyday he speaks a language that is not his own, a language he had to learn to be able to come and study in America.
“I like English, but sometimes it’s hard to understand or find the right words to say something,” Osa said.
While English is not the hardest language to learn, it still takes a lot of time and effort to be able to speak a new language at a proficient level.. In college there is no time for mistakes and sometimes a language barrier can be the one thing that stops Osafrom learning what he needs to. Whether it is not understanding a lecture, not knowing some crucial keywords or misinterpreting the meaning of a prompt, all those things can hurt his grades.
“Sometimes I don’t understand my professor or they speak too fast and I have to ask a classmate to understand what’s going on in class,” said Jon Osa.
And while with more and more practice and speaking the language everyday Osagets better, it still takes time.
But of course, Osais not the only international student at UMSL. The school enrolls hundreds of international students every semester and the numbers only keep going up. Many of Osa’s teammates on the swim team are also international students from different countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Belgium, South Africa and Mexico. But that’s not all. UMSL works with many different universities across the world. On campus you can see students from China, Brazil, South Korea, Colombia, Japan, France and many other countries. Every year more and more international students come not only to UMSL but many schools in St. Louis and also other cities and states across the country. Whether it is just a one or two year exchange or the full degree people from all around the world are coming to America to study.
And while those numbers keep growing rapidly and it might be easier to find someone to relate to within fellow students it is still often hard to accommodate in this new culture.
“I know what Jon means, I went through that myself and sometimes struggled in classes. But it gets better with time and easier. I like America, I got used to being here. Some things are easier than back home,” said Sergio Santisteban, Osa’steammate, who is a sophomore and also from Spain.
The American lifestyle is not the default for everyone, especially when you’re coming from a completely different country and culture. Some of the international habits don’t translate. One of the big differences is food. For example, in Europe it is popular to have a bigger meal in the middle of the day between 1 to 4 pm and then a smaller supper later in the evening unlike the American small lunch and big dinner.
Apart from that, sometimes you also want to remember home and one of the ways of doing that is to eat some traditional food typical for one’s country. Thankfully there are many restaurants and places that serve diverse foods from all over the world. Unfortunately sometimes it’s still not the same, that’s why many international students opt for cooking their own food the way it would be made back home.
“Me and my roommates often cook food together. I live with three Americans so we sometimes show each other different foods we haven’t tried before,” said Osa.
Being an international student is definitely easier in America, ut it can often be more exciting. Trying new things and discovering a different culture and meeting new people who are interested in your native country. There is always something to do on top of school responsibilities. One thing is for sure; whether it is hard or not, more international students are coming to UMSL so get ready to mingle.