By Taylor Forrest
Most students can get home in a few hours. Some get home in less than an hour. Many can get home in less than a day. For a few, home is a little farther away.
Students from 21 states and 11 different countries are at Southwestern College. Students from different walks of life and cultures join together and walk across campus as classmates every day.
Approximately 8,100 miles.
That is how far Terena Domingos, chemistry freshman, traveled from her home of Angola to reach Winfield.
Along the Atlantic coast of southern Africa, the official language of Angola, the continent’s seventh-largest nation, is Portuguese.
Before coming to Southwestern, Domingos spent eight months in New York City learning English. While there, she became close to her host family and stays in contact with them.
“Once the semester is over, I will not be heading to Angola, but to New York to live with my host family again for the summer,” said Domingos.
Domingos also said that while she has enjoyed her time at Southwestern, she finds herself wanting to finish up her education in New York City.
“I liked New York because I could find good friends there. Here, I find it hard to make friends because everyone is already so close to each other,” said Domingos. “New York, you find friends that have a love of the world.”
While Domingos found it difficult to make friends, she made one inseparable, lifelong friend on campus. Tabeth Mazunga, business freshman, became Terena Domingos’ friend her first day in Winfield.
“Tabeth is from Zimbabwe, so she was at my first meeting for international students,” said Domingos. “She saw me sitting alone and just came up and started talking to me.”
Sharing a little bit of the same culture, Mazunga helped with Domingos’ transition to the U.S. Domingos said that whenever they feel homesick they put on African music and dance to help ease their longing for home.
Dealing with homesickness is just one challenge that Domingos has faced being so far away from home. She also had to adjust to the American culture and way of life. Domingos said that the change in food was probably the most difficult adjustment.
“What Americans eat every day is like junk food to me,” said Domingos. “Pizza. Hamburgers. Ice cream. Every day is something I am not used to. In Angola, we eat a lot of herbs, fruit, vegetables and fish.”
Other than the difference in diet, Domingos also said that the young American fascination with social media and cell phones is something she isn’t used to.
“Yes, we have phones and all this social media, but my country and my culture prefers to just hang out in the street and just talk to each other,” said Domingos. “Neighbors and people are in the street all day just talking. It’s very interactive.”
Angola culture demands more personal interaction, but this doesn’t just extend to idle conversation. Domingos said that in her home country, you have certain ways to dress and act in the street.
“You see girls walking down the street in the U.S. and she will kiss her boyfriend in public,” said Domingos. “In Angola you would never think of doing that. It is just disrespectful.”
Domingos misses her culture, but above all else she misses her family. Coming from a family with five siblings and a niece, Domingos is part of a close-knit family. While she wishes it could be more often, Domingos makes sure to talk to her family once a week.
“My father doesn’t let me call them and talk to them all the time,” said Domingos. “He likes to say that I came here to study and if I talk to my family every day I won’t focus and study. So I stay focused and study and just look forward to our Skype once a week.”
Fang Yu Li
Every Friday, like clockwork, he gets together with friends in the Broadhurst Hall kitchen to cook.
Fang Yu Li, business administration graduate, looks forward to Fridays and savors the authentic Chinese food that reminds him of home.
Li calls the Anhui Province in Southeast China home.
Before beginning the master’s program on campus, Li earned an undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology in the Al Guangdong Province. He is finishing up his first semester on campus and plans to return in the fall to finish his degree.
“My first semester in the U.S. went quickly,” said Li. “I have had a great time here. This school is just a great fit for me. The size of the school is perfect and it is in a small safe town. This place makes me feel youthful.”
Li became involved in campus life and participates in STUFU. “I think that is something that impressed me a lot. STUFU has so many different activities – bingo nights, movie nights,” said Li. “It binds a connection between each student when they attend.”
When not in class, Li likes to spend his time playing basketball with friends or swimming in White P.E. Although Li has loved his experience on campus, it came with a few difficulties as well.
“The biggest thing I had to get used to here was the transportation,” said Li. “In China, we have good public transportation. In the U.S., if you want to go anywhere, you have to buy or borrow a car.”
Li hopes to get a car in the near future.
“Generally speaking, Chinese people are more conservative,” said Li. “American people are more open and enthusiastic.”
Li said that while he misses his friends and family back home, he plans on staying in the U.S. after earning his master’s.
“I plan on getting an internship or job for two or three years in the U.S.,” said Li. “That’s my three year plan. After those three years, I’ll figure out another three years. Who knows, I might stay or I might go home.”
Every Friday, he woke up and went to the mosque. Then he ate lunch with his family. After that, he made special time to visit his elders.
This is the routine that Fahad Alajmi, computer science junior, lived while residing in Saudi Arabia.
“Our culture is affected by two main things. First, our religion because our constitution is obtained from the Quaran,” said Alajmi. “Second, the traditions of our tribes are different. Our tribes are what prohibit women from driving in my country.”
“My time at Southwestern has been busy and filled with hard work,” said Alajmi. “But I have many different friends who helped me. I also found out how much Southwestern is helpful with students.”
Despite enjoying the comfort of friends and a helpful campus, Alajmi still finds himself longing for home.
“I miss everything about my home. I miss my room and how I used to play with my brother’s kids,” said Alajmi. “It’s just part of being homesick.”
Alajmi has been on campus for more than a year and a half and heard about Southwestern from friends that had come to campus before. Alajmi plans on returning next semester and finishing out his degree here.
She was one of a couple of thousand individuals to apply for the Scholarship Study USA.
She was only one of the 75 individuals to receive it.
Louise Kavanagh, theatre junior, chose to uproot her routine life in Belfast, Ireland in order to study in the U.S.
The Study USA scholarship requires students to travel to America and attend a school for a year that best suits their academic needs. The students are allowed to take electives of their choice, but the Scholarship requires that they primarily take business classes.
They bring back the business skills they learned in America and apply them in Ireland. The year spent studying abroad doesn’t count towards their transcript in Ireland, so it puts a halt to their degree for a year.
Kavanagh studied at Queens University in Belfast before taking the Study USA Scholarship. Despite the halt it places on her degree, Kavanagh said that the experience was worth the time spent.
“It was basically a year for me to gain business experience,” said Kavanagh. “This will help me in the long run because once I return to Ireland my plans are to start my own theatre company and my newfound business skills will come in handy.”
The scholarship pays for all expenses, but students must return to Ireland with a large dissertation and a business idea that they must present.
“In order to get the full American college experience, I’ve really immersed myself in the community and become involved on campus,” said Kavanagh. “I’ve spoken at the Chamber of Commerce and attended supper clubs with my foster parents.”
Along with being extremely busy, Kavanagh also said that adjusting to the culture on campus has been a separate task as well, especially when it comes to drinking.
“In Ireland, the college experience is also a drinking experience,” said Kavanagh. “Our college has a bar and we will sit at the bar after class and everybody drinks all day, every day. Here, college is driven more by activities.”
In Ireland, the grading system is 90 percent based off of the final with little to no homework leading up to the end of the semester. Kavanagh said that this differentiating factor was a relief in several ways.
“Back home, with only the final, it puts a lot of pressure riding on that test,” said Kavanagh. “The college day is also more packed in the U.S. Back home, I would attend class for a couple hours and I would be done and here my day is packed and makes me busier.”
“I would be sadder that I was leaving, but I am moving on in a good way,” said Kavanagh. “I will be moving to Chicago where I have an internship as a facilitator for theatre workshops. I’ll be teaching self-confidence and just basic skills about getting your career kick started.”
Angola. Anhui Province. Saudi Arabia. Belfast.
All different cultures, laws, languages and different areas of the world, yet these places have one thing in common.
While from different walks of life, these students all represent their nation on campus. Alajmi and Li will be returning to campus to continue their education. And although Kavanagh and Domingos will not be returning, they will become living example of the “Builders around the World” mantra.
Taylor Forrest is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org