For incoming American students, it is daunting enough being away from home, academically challenged and forced to create entirely new social groups. For international students, it is all that and more as they have had to get used to food, weather and new friends.
Most international students did not have the luxury of visiting campus before coming, not to mention visiting the United States. Freshman Rahil Savani found out about Knox through his college counselor, who wanted him to apply to liberal arts colleges; so far, the only difficulty has been learning the meaning of “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.”
Freshman Avinash Gurung discovered Knox through his older sister junior Supriya Gurung, whose assurance of a great school was backed up by a great scholarship.
Many of the incoming international students have complicated multi-ethnic and multi-national backgrounds. Savani is of Indian heritage, speaks Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu on top of impeccable English, yet grew up in Uganda.
While Knox’s food system prides itself on a diverse range of “international fare,” it often requires much adjustment for international students. Omnipresent dairy was a large difference for many students.
Junior Nadja Khademi, from the University of Flensburg in Germany, found that “…people here eat more sweet foods, and eat for breakfast what we would eat for lunch, like scrambled eggs and ham.”
Gurung expressed nostalgia for home-cooked food, finding food here “… different, a bit bland.”
For others, however, the cultural differences are not what one might expect. Sophomore Riho Orito from Waseba University in Japan said she does not understand “… why people don’t take off their shoes in their room, and there’s no bathtub in the room. Japanese people get into the bathtub every day.”
In the class of 2016, there are around 50 international students and 40 transfer students. Several of the transfer students are studying abroad from foreign partner universities of Knox. Some are teaching assistants in the Department of Modern Languages on top of taking full course loads.
Many Knox students feel constrained by Galesburg’s small-town-in-the-cornfields feel, and this extends to international students. Khademi plans to travel around the U.S. after her study abroad program ends after winter term and encourages others to do so as well.
Despite some reservations, international students agree that Knox students are “pretty friendly,” “very kind” and “easy to make friends” with.