Talk On Culture Shock Draws Students to Maplewood

Bethany Miller, Weather Vane student newspaper

John Kratz, director of International Student Services and David Muscan, Hillside RD
John Kratz, director of International Student Services and David Muscan, Hillside RD discuss at the culture shock meeting. (Photo: Morgan Porter and Chelsie Gordon)

Cameroon, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lebanon, Paraguay, Germany, Hungary, China; so many different countries, so many different cultures, so many different experiences. Twenty students and staff gathered in Maplewood lounge on Thursday night, Oct. 29, to talk about their experiences with different cultures. The group included Americans that have traveled overseas, international students who are studying here, Americans who grew up in other countries, and others who are experiencing EMU as a culture shock.

Each person shared their best and worst experiences in another culture. Csilla Muscan, a Resident Director at Hillside shared about the teasing that occurred when she moved from Romania to Hungary. “The other kids would make fun of my accent because I didn’t sound Hungarian.” She also had some good things to say, and talked about an experience in Scotland, where her host “treated her like royalty.”

Similar stories were heard around the group about the kindness and generosity of people from other cultures. Many people talked about feeling welcome, explaining that the hospitality they experienced was unlike any other. “Guatemalans are very hospitable people,” said junior Leah Risser, who made the trek to Guatemala when she was in high school. “Even in the indigenous regions where they have little money, they always offered you something to drink, at least.”

International students talked about the differences between the culture they came from and American culture. The individuality that is stressed in this country is something that was brought up a lot. “The focus seems to be on ‘me,'” said David Muscan, Resident Director of Hillside. “You hear phrases like, ‘be the master of your own destiny,’ and ‘chase your dreams.’ In my culture, it would be more like, ‘chase your dreams, but keep your family and society in mind.'”

For Muigai Ndoka, a CJP student at EMU, he feels like his identity is being imposed on him. “Here at EMU, I am a foreigner, a student,” he explained. “Now I have to deal with the identity I’ve been given.” Hearing these perspectives was helpful for the American students present. “The most helpful thing was to hear the international students’ point of view of coming to America,” said Risser. “For me, it was going to a third world country, and for them it was sort of the opposite.”

This is not the first year for students to talk about their experiences, but it is a first time for all students to be invited. “There is something like this every year, but it is usually for the international students only, to let them know they’re not alone,” said Muscan. “It is helpful for everyone to know about the steps you might go through when experiencing a new culture.”