The first week of the semester can be a stressful time for any student, whether they are scrambling to find their classes, starting a new school or coming from a different country.
For international exchange students studying abroad, starting out at a new university campus in an unfamiliar country can be a surreal experience.
“As far as the campus goes, it is like being in a movie: seeing the football team, the school marching band, the flags and the buses all over campus,” Pablo Rodriguez, a senior from Spain on the pre-law track, said in Spanish. “Everyone in Spain would think it is like that, but we could not imagine it until you actually live it. It just seems sort of strange. Here, everyone is multi-cultural and get along.”
Elena Martinez noticed differences in culture right away compared to Spain.
“In regards to the culture, it is taking me time to adapt because I see a lot of differences in comparison to the lifestyle in Europe,” Martinez, a junior business major from Spain, said in Spanish. “Over here, people are not segregated into their social class and instead treated as equals, which appears to be very good. I see over here that the people are very open. You can be standing in line and they ask you how you are and where you come [from], but at the same time, I also notice a lot of hypocrisy because people say they are there to help you when you need them, but when you actually need their help they are not there. Like every place, it has its good and its bad.”
Another international exchange student, Hamish Maclachlan-Lester, a senior business marketing major from Australia, said that the dorms on campus are average but the people here are quite friendly.
The school’s International Student Organization, first established in 2012 and funded by Undergraduate Student Government, was created to support all cultural backgrounds of the student body population.
San KoKo Htet, secretary of ISO and senior health science major, explained the difference between exchange and international students.
“Exchange students are students coming to this school from a study abroad exchange program (meaning an SBU student went to their school) and they are only here for one semester or 2 semesters and often times their motive is to see how university life in another country is like and have a feel for it,” Htet said in an email. “‘International students are from other countries with an F-1 visa, who are undergraduate students at Stony Brook University and intend to get their bachelor’s degree from SBU.”
International students are not the only ones that benefit from the cultural diversity Stony Brook has to offer. American students can also interact with other students from different backgrounds, strengthening their cultural awareness and helping them become a valuable asset in their future workplace.
“Our club is not only for international students as some may assume,” Htet said. “We welcome all students and we do have all types of students. We have international students, exchange students and domestic American students in our club.”