By Wiwin Hartini
When I came to the United States in 2016 for college, I thought I’d be making friends with Americans and be able to speak English on a daily basis like what I’ve seen in the movies when I grew up. Although that part is true, living here has broadened my perspective about international boundaries. I’ve never met as many international students as I’ve met at PSU. And the opportunity to study here opened another opportunity to make new friends with students from other countries.
I think I’ve met and worked with students from Venezuela, Germany, Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Congo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, and other countries. I did not expect this before I came here. It’s easy to take it for granted and not think about it until I realized how rare it was to meet a person from another country when I was attending schools in Indonesia.
Recently, I joined a program at PSU called ICSP (International Cultural Service Program) where selected international students are given scholarships and opportunities to share their cultures to requestors (educational institutions, organizations, groups, etc). The program also offers training to develop the students’ skills. It has allowed me to meet with students from 16 countries and learn about their cultures. I would have never thought that I would be learning about Vietnamese New Year’s tradition or learning about stereotypes about Ukraine.
As people are more globally connected through the internet, I think understanding other cultures is more important than ever. The application can be as simple as working for a company that would transfer you to Japan to work, for example. Having exposure to Japanese culture from a student while going to school can be a valuable experience in the long run. Working with people from different backgrounds can enrich the way we think and the way we can solve problems.