During the 2010-2011 school year, Tech hosted 4,364 international and scholar students, giving both international students and Americans here at Tech the opportunity to experience foreign cultures. On any given day, the hustle to class can be characterized by the sound of several different languages as peers communicate the trials and tribulations of life and school.
The six countries that send the most students to Tech are India, China, Republic of South Korea, France, Taiwan and Turkey (The top 6 in that order), according to an OIE report. The fact that Tech is a diverse campus will not come as a surprise to many. The myriad cultures and languages that pass by tech landmarks give this campus its uniqueness.
Most Tech students have at some point in their college life come across an international student; whether it be in a residence hall, at a football game or in a class. But how much do Tech students actually know about these different nationalities, their language, their food, their culture? More importantly how much do they know about the challenges they face when they arrive in the US.
The biggest challenge facing those new to the country is the culture shock. Greasy food, monster trucks, and the second amendment; these are all things that many Americans grew up with but are alien in other cultures. The cultural differences felt by different nationalities vary.
“The diversity of people here; there’s so many different races and languages, and the pace of life varies widely here,” said Jane Wong ID, undergraduate exchange student from China.
“The amount of unhealthy food that is available,” said Vivek Sandhiniti first-year BME major from India.
“I was shocked by the amount of overweight people here. There are heavier people in France, but not nearly as many morbidly obese people,” said Martin Anquez, PHYS Graduate Student from France.
While some found the food some getting used to, others picked up on everyday nuances.
“In Korea, everything is very close by so people just walk everywhere or ride the bus. But in the states, everyone just drives cars to get anywhere,” said Esther Ro, a first-year BIO major from South Korea.
“The biggest culture shock was how kind people are to each other. Even though you don’t know somebody, they will just give you a ‘Hello!’ or nod their heads, which is not the case in Europe,” said Olcay Sarmaz, Operations Management Grad Student from Turkey.
Different cultures have different foods, different languages and different lifestyles. Going to school in a foreign land, missing home is inevitable. Sometimes it can be a familiar aroma or hearing a few words of one’s native tongue, but it seems to be the food that makes students miss home the most.
“Can’t replicate the taste of the food back home. The spices are so different,” Sandhiniti said. “[I miss] My family and durian (a spiky fruit native to Asia), they’re amazing,” Wong said.
“Luckily, Atlanta has everything I miss from France, but it’s just far more expensive, especially cheese,” Anquez said.
Different cultures carry their own stereotypes and misconceptions. It happens every day all over the world; somewhere, someone is probably mistaking the continent of Africa for a country, wearing a beret around Paris, or assuming that all Americans only listen to country music.
Many of these stereotypes are common misconceptions that, while sometimes based on harmless fun, lead to many people getting the wrong idea about a place and sometimes forming hurtful biases.
“We’re not all super crazy smart,” Sandhiniti said. “Generally people think the language of Turkey is Arabic. It’s not; it’s Turkish,” Sarmaz said.
The American culture is very different from many Asian cultures.
“Americans tend to be straightforward when speaking, but we (Chinese) tend to be more respectful and use hedging when communicating,” Wong said.
“We were raised in a completely different culture. Whereas here parents like well-balanced athletic and smart kids, most Korean parents only care about grades,” Ro said.
While some misconceptions are ignorant and politically incorrect, some are just amusing.
“Well, women in France do shave their armpits, there are non-nude beaches, and not everyone smokes,” Anquez said. “Taiwan is not in Thailand,” said Chung Yu Shih, PHYS Graduate Student from Taiwan.
Tech’s campus is home to students from many different backgrounds and provides others the chance to learn about some of these cultures. Students intrigued by different languages and nationalities should engage with students from other countries. There will seldom be chances to interact with a diverse group such as present on Tech’s campus.