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Things We Wish Our American Classmates Knew About Us

Things We Wish Our American Classmates Knew About Us

They come from far away, and stay for too short a time. International students are an important and growing part of the CNY college community, and they sometimes struggle to make friends in their host country.

We sat down with five international exchange students from all across the world to learn about their experiences at Syracuse University, what they call a “typical American college.” With less than a month left of their studies they all reflected on their time and shared their impressions with us—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So who did we talk to?

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Josefina Munoz, 22 year-old management student from Chile Claudia Articek, 24 year-old public relations student from Germany Silvia (WonJeong) Kim, 20-year-old management student from South Korea


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Victor Ryding, 22-year-old global business informatics student from Denmark Utku Dalan, 21-year-old industrial engineering student from Turkey


What did they say?

They all had different motivations for study abroad:

Josefina: I came here to improve my English and I haven’t spoken English in four years so it’s been hard.

Claudia: I came to study at Syracuse University because I was inspired by the technology, the image of the university, and the professors.

Silvia: Learning English is a priority to me and I wanted to experience university life.

Victor: My motivation was the idea of the college experience that I’ve seen in movies. You know, house parties and stuff.

Utku: Improving my English because it’s too important even if you’re in Turkey, getting an international network, and expanding my vision.

And their favorite parts of studying in Syracuse varied:

Josefina: The professors. In Chile the professors are like God. Here they actually care about you and are very friendly. They wait outside of the classroom and talk with you. That’s very nice.

Claudia: The people are very open and friendly. For example over Thanksgiving break, I met an elderly couple in New York City who invited us to celebrate Thanksgiving in their home with their family, even though we only met them for two hours. We were totally strangers.

Silvia: My favorite part is that if I were in Korea I’d be under pressure to get a job but here I can take my time and be more relaxed.

Victor: The college experience. It actually kind of does live up to the movies. It’s not all the way up there, but I feel like it can come close. It’s a little scary but it actually kind of does.

Utku: Hanging with other international friends and visiting popular cities. Those are my most enjoyable moments – talking and hanging out with my friends.

Everyone noticed some cultural differences:

Josefina: I don’t like the handshake. I don’t like when people say hi and show me their hand. For me, it’s too cold. It’s just for formal things, maybe it’s a cultural thing but I think handshakes are very impersonal.

Claudia: The people here are very ambitious and competitive. In Germany, we have a sharing culture, everybody shares things to get the best result. But here, everyone is on their own.

Silvia: There are too many cultural differences. In Korea, we have rules when we first meet people, especially when they’re older and professors. Here, you don’t have that. It feels more informal this way. Actually, I like it. It’s more friendly.

Victor: In Denmark, college students focus on their life first like cooking at home, where they live. But here, university events and school comes first.

Utku: If you look in general, education is better in the United States universities. But I got used to learning in hard environments. We always wrote a lot, studied a lot. We always had challenges in our courses. Here, the content is more relaxed and flexible. I like being challenged so sometimes I get bored.

They all had some difficulties along the way:

Josefina: When I started class, I had groups and at the beginning they were giving me the easiest parts. I think they thought I was dumb because I’m not from the United States. But then they noticed I’m not dumb so now they give me most of the work. I think, they think if people don’t study in the United States, they are dumb.

Claudia: My biggest struggle was dealing with people who are not punctual. Sometimes I had to wait 30 minutes for people. In Germany, I only have one friend who is always late, everyone else is punctual!

Silvia: With American students it’s a little hard to get along and make friends. The only way I meet them is in classes and I don’t know if they actually make friends in class. We can have some little conversations but we can’t actually make friends and hang out. It’s hard.

Victor: I miss not being in a college bubble. Here there is a college bubble and I feel like I’m pretty far away from everything. In Copenhagen, everything is so close by.

Utku: I think some students are a little bit biased to me. I’m not really a religious person but of course I know that because of the news they think that being Turkish and Muslim are bad things. I’m not judging them because I don’t accept what my politicians say but I am also not responsible for what my politicians say.

And they all struggled making friends with American students:

Josefina: Sometimes I feel like I don’t know if it was worth it enough to come here because I thought I was going to make more connections. Okay, I improved my English but I thought I was going to talk more to American students.

Claudia: I didn’t make many American friends. I mean I tried but it was very hard. I think they already made their friends. And under the fact that I am leaving soon it was hard to make close American friends.

Silvia: With American students it’s a little hard to get along and make friends. The only way I meet them is in classes and I don’t know if they actually make friends in class. We can have some little conversations but we can’t actually make friends and hang out. It’s hard

Victor: I feel like the exchange students are kind of excluded from the Americans. I only interact with Americans really in the classroom. There’s really no room to get deep with each other.

Utku: My classmates, sometimes they are so open. I have one very good American friend. But in general, American students think that the world is America and they don’t know what’s going on in the other side

But in the end, they each had one thing they really wished their American classmates knew about them:

Josefina: I’m also an American. America is a continent, not a country. Chile is in America and every American that I meet, I need to tell them that.

Claudia: I’m very direct. I try not to be as direct but I sometimes can’t hide it. And I really don’t want to be insulting when I’m being direct.

Silvia: If I say I’m from Korea some people ask if I’m from North or South but of course I’m from South Korea, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. They kind of think that South Koreans are always in danger of war and we’re not safe, but that’s actually not true.

Victor: Maybe that I feel very independent. I’m kind of proud that I’m doing this by myself. Everything is on me.

Utku: There are some people that have international visions, but generally, they should be aware of something more and learn some more international things. It’s not all about the United States.

About The Author


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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