Carolina Torres – Staff Writer –
After only three weeks in the United States, Jens Kummer ran into trouble trying to fuel up his car at an area gas station. The Germany native, who will be attending Southern for one semester, is used to pumping then paying, a routine most American citizens know is the other way around.
“I put the fuel nozzle into my car but nothing happened,” Kummer said. “I thought there was something wrong with the gasoline pump, so I just drove to the next station.”
Finally he figured out that he had to pay in advance before putting the gas into the car. The decision to pay with cash or credit was fairly simple: credit. However, paying with a foreign credit card in the United States always requires a zip code.
Kummer said he entered the zip code of New York City.
“It still didn’t work, so I finally walked into the gas station and let the cashier explain to me how this works,” said Kummer.
But for international college students, the slight confusion during everyday activities is worth it.
Study abroad programs have become increasingly popular over the years. According to the Institute of International Education, the United States has seen a five percent increase in international students, meaning 723,277 college students from other countries received collegiate studies in America during the 2010-2011 academic year.
At Southern alone, there are students from across the globe, stretching from Norway to Taiwan, Cyprus, Brazil and Barbados.
“The number of incoming and outgoing students at Southern has increased in the last two years,” said Erin Heidkamp, head of the Office of International Education.
At the moment, there are 79 students from abroad studying at Southern, Heidkamp said. Those students are reaching for a whole degree, or attending the school for just one or two semesters.
Aside from the benefits of studying internationally, such as learning culture, tradition and adapting to change, living away from home can host many challenges, as Kummer’s gas station debacle shows.
There is an enormous culture barrier for some students, and finding a way to work around it and adapt can be a struggle.
Nayoung Lee, also an international student at SCSU, said she had no problems with gas stations. In South Korea, her home country, they work just the same as in the U.S., but there are some other things she has to get used to.
“Fashion,” she said. “I see girls wearing summer clothes with winter boots. And the boys wear sandals with socks! Why is that?”
Lee also said that student life in America certainly differs from being a student in Korea. The minimum number of students per class there is seventy. Classes at Southern could hold as little as fifteen.
In South Korea, students would never interrupt the professor during the lesson; questions are to be asked afterwards.
“I’m not used to participating all the time in order to get a good grade,” said Lee. “In Korea, participation does almost not count.”
Whether it is the bizarre mash-up of summer and winter clothes, the pay before you pump rule, or having to actually raise your hand for some extra credit points, there is one thing most international students seem to agree on.
The most appreciated facet of American life is freedom.