International students offer unique perspective on life in the U.S.
They might not be as noticeable here as they are at Carnegie Mellon University or the University of Pittsburgh, but a number of international students are currently studying at Westmoreland County colleges and universities.
At Seton Hill University, there are 53 students from 22 foreign countries enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Saint Vincent College's 18 undergrad and graduate international students hail from Austria, China, Turkey, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Two Chinese students have found their way to Penn State New Kensington. Even Westmoreland County Community College has three international students enrolled this fall.
They come for the adventure, the quality of the education and the opportunity to play college sports.
We recently caught up with a few of them to get their takes on the U.S. versus their home countries.
The good news is that most find Americans to be welcoming and generous. The bad news is that our food and weather leave something to be desired.
Yifan Xue “Eve”
From: Suzhou, China; in the U.S. since 2016
School: Penn State New Kensington; actuarial math major, psychology minor
Americans are: Friendly. Passionate. Open-minded.
Bundle up: (Pennsylvania) is colder than I expected. I was so excited to have snow in last October and shocked to have snow in March. In my city, it is humid and extremely hot in summer.
A big difference: Chinese food and American food are totally different from each other. I have tried a lot of Chinese restaurants here, but to be honest, they are not so traditional. And some kinds of food are not available here. I was thinking to take a trip to New York just to find some really good Chinese restaurants.
From: Bursa, Turkey; in the U.S. for two years
School: Saint Vincent College; business management major, operational excellence minor
Likes/dislikes: I do not really enjoy every American food, but I like to eat macaroni and cheese.
Where to go for Turkish food: I can say Anatolia (in Greensburg) is the best so far for me. I have been with my friends and every one of them loved it. People should not be afraid to go there, because they have no idea about the food. The people in that restaurant are very welcoming.
What to know about Turkey: I would like them to know that I speak Turkish, not Arabic. I would like them to know that Turkey is a beautiful country for them to visit. The people I have known that visited Turkey before, they would like to go back and visit again.
Claudia De Hartog
From: Hilversum, The Netherlands; arrived in the U.S. this fall
School: Saint Vincent College; studying biology and environmental science during a study-abroad year from Erasmus University in Rotterdam
First take on the U.S.: My very first impression was that people are very nice. At a counter or checkout, people call you “honey” and “sweetheart.”
A challenge: What I am beginning to realize is that everything off-campus is not very easily accessible. Especially if you don't have a car. I miss being able to cycle everywhere whenever I want. Even the Walmart, which is super-close to campus, is a 30-minute walk, without pavements.
Major difference in people: Dutch people are known to be direct towards each other. We say what we feel. No (BS). Here, people are a lot more careful with what they say. They might think certain things and maybe even say it behind your back, but they won't say it directly to your face.
A revelation: I understand the hype about pumpkin pie spice flavored things now...
From: Gebze, Turkey; in the U.S. for two years
School: Saint Vincent College; studying economics and mathematics
The upside of Saint Vincent: Its family-like community. Small-sized campus. More interaction with the professors.
The downside: Being in a rural area can be a problem. Lack of public transportation. Being attached to a car in order to do anything.
Thoughts on the U.S.: America is a country where you can earn if you work hard. Life standards are better (than in Turkey). It's a consumption society. You earn money to buy, to spend.
Pennsylvania weather: Too much humidity.
From: Rotterdam, The Netherlands; arrived in the U.S. this fall
School: Saint Vincent College; double major in neuroscience and psychology
Why Saint Vincent: My home university offered exchange opportunities around the world and Saint Vincent was the only option in the United States, and I really wanted to live here for a bit.
First take on the U.S.: It seems like the land of extremes. Everything is either really big and massive or very small. You have very poor people and very rich people, beautiful huge cities or smaller countryside towns.
The real U.S.: Not everyone is as crazy as you read on the Internet or see in reality TV shows, those are just the extremes that you see the most.
What the Dutch have that the U.S. needs: The Dutch eat a lot of bread for breakfast and lunch. It is this really nice whole-wheat bread that tastes amazing. (American) bread just doesn't taste as good.
From: Middlesbrough, England; in the U.S. for three years
School: Seton Hill University; mathematics major, business administration/finance minor; men's track team
Similarities between Pennsylvania and England: They both have cold, miserable winters.
Different styles: I would say that generally English men dress slightly nicer, especially what is the norm for college students. Usual attire at Seton Hill is sweat pants and a hoodie, whereas at home people will wear at least jeans and a nicer shirt. Also a big difference is that men wear skinny jeans in England, here they wear loose-fitting boot-cut jeans.
Tone it down: At first, many Americans may seem unnecessarily loud and boisterous, but they are usually very friendly and welcoming.
From: Trondheim, Norway; in the U.S. for two years
School: Seton Hill University; business administration major with specialization in entrepreneurial studies; women's soccer team
What's good: I like that there are so many opportunities available (in the U.S.). If you work hard, there is nothing that can stop you.
What's not so good: I do not like the race issues, how the discrimination is such a big thing.
Nutrition: The food in Norway is very healthy and not processed. American food makes me feel sluggish.
Pennsylvania weather: I don't understand how it can go from 80 (degrees) and sunny to hailing in the same day.
From: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; in the U.S. for two months
School: University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg; biology major
Difference in cultures: People here go out of their way to help you in times of need. Communications are more open and less judgmental. (In Asian culture) communication with people is usually more indirect and differs according to age and power.
The upside: You can get groceries from Walmart 24 hours a day.
The downside: I find it difficult to get food without cheese. There is cheese in almost everything!
Plan a visit: If you love the summers, you will love Malaysia. We are very laid-back people. There is a lot to explore … especially the rain forests, the tropical fruits, beaches and the friendly people.
From: Ningbo, China; arrived in the U.S. this fall
School: Penn State New Kensington; undeclared major, interested in statistics
The Penn State experience: There are various activities at Penn State like sightseeing, speech contests, art festival, sports and so on. I really enjoy those activities which not only relax me but also provide me a good opportunity to pursue a friendship with others.
Notes on Ningbo: Ningbo is really a special place with a long history dating (to) 4800 BC. Ningbo was known as a trade city on the Silk Road at least 2,000 years ago. It is a major port for foreign trade and it provides a favorable living atmosphere.
Hi, neighbor: Of all the places I've lived, I find that America is the friendliest. The openness makes it much easier to make friends and learn about the language and culture.
There's no place like home: (I miss) my parents, grandparents, relatives and my friends! I really miss Chinese food like sweet dumplings, bubble tea, hot pot and crayfish.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.