By Raul Orozco
International students on campus add diversity and a mixture of different cultures to the college’s community. With the change of culture and lifestyle, everyday struggles can arise for these students.
Elyshe Achenbach, coordinator of international student services and enrollment, oversees over 40 international students. She stated that the three main countries that students come from are Germany, Mexico and China.
“We have a beautiful campus, a good admission process and of course the athletics and coaches,” said Achenbach.
The students have goals and aspirations upon arriving on campus but they immediately face struggles. For Sheka Olenga, philosophy and religion sophomore, it was the transportation that was difficult when she first arrived on campus.
Olenga didn’t have a vehicle and she felt it was hard for her to ask peers to drive her places. She says that public transportion wasn’t available to her like it was in her home country the Republic of Congo.
“I felt like I was being an inconvenience to the people I asked,” Olenga said.
Olenga and Malvin Mupondi, health science freshman, both agreed that having a feeling of belonging is something that all the international students want. Olenga says that they already feel like an outsider and they are just trying to fit in somewhere.
Mupondi said that finances are difficult for him, “I feel like my work-study isn’t enough and as an international student I feel like I have a few more expenses.”
Mupondi isn’t able to work off-campus due to M-1 and F-1 Visa restrictions enforced by the U.S. government. Mupondi feels that other internationals also struggle with this and the restrictions.
Achenbach stated that culture shock and home-sickness seriously plays a part in the everyday life of a foreign student. For Fabio Schneider, business administration junior, he says he feels this in two ways. Fabio has been here for three years and has integrated himself into everyday American life.
Schneider said, “I think every student misses their family but they are here for a reason.”
He went home over winter break and thoroughly enjoyed his first few days there but that after a couple of weeks, he missed his life in the U.S.
Mupondi said, “I feel conflicted about wanting to go home as I miss my family, but I am here to grow and make something of my life.”
Mupondi and Schneider both explained that the people on campus have become like their second family. They feel that they derive strength from those people that help them, even if they struggle with homesickness.
Students often travel home to visit family members and friends to treat some of the homesickness and unwind for a while. International students don’t have that travelling ability, especially during these pandemic times. Achenbach has knowledge of those students having to travel to different countries in order to gain access to the U.S. She says airlines would often cancel flights or not host any and this would be a challenge to those students trying to get home or to Winfield.
The struggle to head back home varies depending on the students. For example, Olenga hasn’t been able to return to her native country since the pandemic started. In the case of Schneider, he had to fly to Croatia in order to fly to U.S. and the same for the way back to Germany.
Mupondi said, “I had to stay here in Kansas all summer, it was just all me in the U.S.”
Achenbach states that in order to get admitted into Southwestern College there must be fluency of the English language in a student’s abilities. Although all students know English, that doesn’t do away with the language barrier.
The international students have been talking in their native tongue all of their lives, thus developing accents. The accents vary across the students but they are still present, making some of the pronunciation difficult. The use of slang and uncommon words also puts these students at an understandable disadvantage.
With all the struggles, Achenbach feels like she is doing her part to help out her advisees to the best of her ability. The school also helps them through the admissions process. The athletics are also a big part in the student’s life, as a lot of their friendships begin in their own sports teams.
“It’s hard but as long as you have goals, you can do it.” said Mupondi.
Mupondi has thoroughly enjoyed his experience here so far even with the barriers.
“SC builds you up. By the end of the day, the school can make you a somebody even if you’re a nobody when you come here.”