International students experience cultural differences


Originally from South Africa, freshman political science student Nangamso “Nana” Mntumni considers it a privilege to be studying in the US.

After Nangamso Mntumni’s parents died, she became friends with Katie Taylor. She came to the United states with Taylor, where she has had to adjust to the cultural differences. (Photo by Kaitie Fox)

Mntumni came to Canton after meeting Vice President for Advancement Howard Taylor’s daughter Katie Taylor at a film school she was attending in South Africa.

After her parents died, Mntumni was house hopping in South Africa while attending the film school where Taylor taught. The two women quickly became friends.

When it was time for Taylor to return to the United States, she asked her family about having Mntumni live with them since she had nowhere to go in South Africa. They gave the green light and Mntumni accepted the invitation. In 2008, she moved to the United States.

Since being here, Mntumni has discovered many cultural differences, including the English language, inside jokes, and ways of having fun and connecting with people, which have made adjusting to life in the United States difficult.

“I just don’t understand how [Americans] connect!” Mntumni said. “It’s very difficult to understand some jokes, and relationships here seem very shallow.”

Mntumni also said Americans spend much more money on entertainment than she’s used to in South Africa.

Since being in the United States, Mntumni says that she has learned a lot, especially in terms of personal growth and success.

“When I came here I learned that you could basically be anything you want to be if you work hard.” Mntumni said, “I’m given a brighter future here.”

Mntumni found that her friends in the United States had several misconceptions about life in South Africa.

She clarified that South Africans do not swim with crocodiles, rides lions to school, or have pet zebras, bears, or elephants after being asked these things by her American friends.

Another international student Tim Collet is a freshman business administration student who traveled from Germany to study and said swimming brought him to Malone.

“At a competition in Germany, they promoted me and gave me a scholarship,” Collet said.

Collet said that besides the difficulty of our language, since coming to America he has come to understand that everyone is different, and that’s okay.

“I’ve learned that it’s important to take people as they are.”

This may not be a difficult task to take on here because in his opinion, Americans are nicer than Europeans.

Collet has noted differences between the culture of Germany and that of the United States. Collet said that people here tend to be nicer than in his country, but that it is often difficult to understand jokes told in the United States.

He has also met with other international students attending Malone in the home of Brenda Stevens, Director of Multicultural Services.

Stevens serves as an adviser and liaison to all international students.

“When students come into the country, they’re admitted to the University through admissions, but immigration services has different protocols that have to be addressed. So after they are admitted to the University I track their status during the entire four years that an international student is here,”
Stevens said.

Stevens’s close work with these students lends her insight into the challenges and rewards of the academic international experience.

“One of the primary issues that international students face is being able to work. An international student coming into the United States on an F1 student visa is not allowed to work off campus, except under strict provisions from Immigration and Naturalization Services,” Stevens said.

International students cannot receive federal work study positions, Stevens explained, so there are few job opportunities even on campus.

“You’ll notice that many of our international students work for AVI. That is an on campus work situation that they are allowed to work through,” Stevens said.

Stevens explained that MISA (Malone International Student Association) is an organization that provides the social and community aspect for international students.

“Another thing that [Multicultural Services] tries to do is get international students off campus, out of Canton, and out of Ohio, so that when they return to their countries they can say ‘I’ve been to New York City, I’ve been to Washington DC, I’ve been to Chicago,’ and they can really get a better picture of life in the United States,” Stevens said.

Stevens explained that international students experience great cultural differences as well as similarities during their time in the United States.

“A lot of students are eager to share their culture,” Stevens said, “so if you meet an international student, take the time to get to know that student so that you form and build a relationship. It will be a very rich one, I promise.”

Kim Farkas and Jaynie Cooper are contributing writers for The Aviso AVW.

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