From Student Blogger, Ayaka: What is American College like?

From Student Blogger, Ayaka: What is American College like?

Every month the Center for Global Engagement at College of Staten Island where I work as a volunteer, holds the International Coffee Hour. At the last event, my friends and I enjoyed chatting for the first time in a while because we were too busy to hang out. The first time we met was at the orientation for international students, and we all came to this college in January of this year. They came from India and Sri Lanka. We would often hang out with other students from France and Cambodia, but they went back to their home countries. Missing them, we recalled our memories together.

Farewell always brings new beginnings, I believe.

I do love the coffee hour not only because I can get some free food but because it gives me a great opportunity to meet new people from all over the world every single time.

So, not surprisingly but fortunately, I met a new friend from Sri Lanka. We shared our feelings as international students and complained how busy this semester was. And coincidentally, we found we were the same age!

She asked me, “How do you like it here?”

It reminds me of the conversation with my friends in Japan.

My friends ask me sometimes, “What are American classes like?” “How are you feeling about it?” I always answer “Hmm, it’s hard” because there are so many things different

from my home country’s style that it will take two hours to explain all!

Thanks to this blog, I can express my feelings.

The big difference I noticed is that students have own strong opinions. I remember during the English class, once my professor asked about the gun control, many students started to raise hands and talk about it, even if some of them usually didn’t listen to the lecture. Some students gave information that even the professor didn’t know.

In my previous school in Japan, very few students, only maybe two or three students expressed and I expressed their opinions. Since Japanese have been taught that interrupting someone and disagreement are very rude, even I was so afraid of saying my opinion. Moreover, I was freaking out when I spoke English. I didn’t want to make a mistake.

However, there’s no point in being here without participating. They might not recognize me unless I say something. During the group discussions, classmates never fail to ask me “What do you think?” I don’t want to say “I don’t know” because I do the reading assignments and I do understand what they cover. So, I manage to tell them my opinion slowly and carefully.

The thing is that it’s really, really difficult to understand what students say because my listening skills aren’t good enough to fully grasp them. This is strange because I can understand what professors talk about. To solve this mystery, I asked other Japanese students who studied abroad in the U.S. and they also had the same difficulty! My theory is, it’s hard to listen to them because we are not accustomed to the person’s accent or speed and because we didn’t learn slang and jargon. Our textbooks are written in a formal style of writing. Anyway, I still need to improve my listening skills.

Though this might depend on the university, I feel professors are close to students. One of my professors spent a lot of time talking to me “one-on-one.” Another professor gave us doughnuts during the exam. When I ran into the other professor at the cafeteria, he talked to me in a very friendly manner. Many professors try to remember the students’ names. It’s a good thing that the class capacity is around 35 people because professors and students can recognize each other easily.

The remarkable thing is that many American students work. Some even have full time jobs. One of my peers has two or three jobs on campus, and he lives very far from the college, taking two hours to commute. Many of my classmates have kids. How can they manage that!? While I’m tied up with my homework, they work, study, and raise children! I really respect them. Simultaneously, they encourage me to handle my college life.

Actually, there are more things that I want to talk about, but it will take forever to finish all. So, I will stop now. What I want to say is that there are so many things I am amazed by here. It never occurred to me three years ago that I could have friends worldwide. It never crossed my mind that I could be such a global person. This experience has been my treasure forever. No one can buy my experience.


Ayaka is a Japanese 24-year-old transfer student at the College of Staten Island, the City University of New York. She is majoring in Sociology.