International students transition to small-town Simpson

by Zoe Seiler, Staff Reporter

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Students across the world are encouraged to study abroad during their college career to experience different cultures or learn another language.

Simpson College offers many exchange programs with various universities in countries such as Australia or Tahiti.

Simpson has several international students on exchange this semester, including senior Grace Cunningham and junior Laura Haddad, both of Australia, and sophomore Chloe Amchi, of Tahiti.

“When you apply for exchange process in Adelaide, you get a few different options, so you can choose three or four universities. Simpson was one of mine,” Cunningham said.

For many international students, this is their first time experiencing life on a small campus and getting to know each other.

“[Simpson is] a lot smaller than our university in Australia,” Cunningham said. “We have about 40,000 to 50,000 students spread over a couple (of) campuses. Where we go to classes we go home. We don’t hang around at school.”

“We didn’t know each other, and we’re doing the same course,” Haddad said. “We had the same class together last semester and didn’t know each other until we started the exchange process.”

Cunningham and Haddad have enjoyed Simpson so far. They like the size of campus and easy access to buildings. They also enjoy getting to know everyone.

“My first preference was New York and NC State in North Carolina,” Cunningham said. “So I kind of wanted to go to a bigger school, but I’m glad I didn’t get into a bigger school. I like that you walk to Kent and you bump into three people you know.”

Sophomore Chloe Amchi is on exchange from the University of French Polynesia in Tahiti, a partner university with Simpson.

“I wanted to study abroad to practice my English. I want to work in management and something international and you have to speak in English,” Amchi said.

In Tahiti and Australia, students are in large lectures of about 200 students listening to a professor speak for about two hours. Classes usually only have one exam at the end of the semester.

So far, the transition has been easy for Cunningham and Haddad and the classes at Simpson have been similar to what they are used to.

Some classes, however, have a tutorial with either the professor or a student.

“The tutorials you have 10 to 15 people, a maximum of 20. They are just a revision of the lecture. It doesn’t go into much more detail,” Haddad said.

However, Simpson professors interact more with students and expect them to be engaged in class.

“We have Brian Steffen for Gender, Race, Class and Media, and I feel like he is a little bit more interactive,” Haddad said. “He asks students more questions. I feel like that’s more of the tutorial type we have at home. Compared to the other ones, I feel like it’s more of a lecture where the professor gives more of a theory-based, history-based information. It’s a little bit different in that setting, but apart from that, it’s similar.”

“The professors wait for participation, so that’s different,” Amchi said. “I’m used to a teacher speaking for two hours and here the teachers wait for answers.”

Amchi had to adjust to taking classes in another language. Her classes in Tahiti are taught in French.

“Teachers let me use my phone to translate sometimes. I can follow what the teachers say,” she said. “I have to concentrate for the whole hour. At the end of the class I’m tired. This is hard.”

Students also have to consider which Simpson classes will count for their major at their university.

“I have to choose my classes here because I have to make it match the classes I’m supposed to take in Tahiti. So I have to find what looks similar,” Amchi said.

Some of the international students experienced living on campus and with a roommate for the first time while at Simpson.

“My roommate situation was very different because I’ve never lived with anyone besides my family,” Haddad said. “I was lucky enough to be in a room with Val because we met here on exchange last semester. I was very happy with my roommate selections.”

“I like living on campus,” Amchi said. “It makes life easier. Everything is close to you. You can wake up later and go back easier to your place to work. You can just live on the campus.
You don’t really need to drive. I don’t have a phone number because I have Facebook and Wi-Fi everywhere.”

The international students said they are not enjoying the cold weather and being far away from a beach or a city.

“It’s a little more isolated,” Haddad said. “I’ve always lived in the suburbs of Adelaide and you’re only 15 minutes away from the city and a maximum of 30 minutes away from the beach. I miss being so close to the beach. It’s just so peaceful.”

“I had to buy online jeans and shoes because in Tahiti you wear flip flops and shorts,” Amchi said. “The first week I was really cold.”