America(ns) from an International Point of View

Elisa Villasenor '25, Guest Writer

Dickinson College is well known to be a community committed to diversity and inclusion. International students on campus face a cultural adjustment curve, when everything is new and exciting; but also frustration and annoyance with everyday cultural differences. 

The first thing that surprised Rehab Hussin, Fullbright student from Egypt, was that everybody is friendly, and that Americans always compliment others. She confirms this could never happen at home, where compliments only come from close friends.

Tom Bouyer, an Overseas Student Assistant from France, really appreciates the feeling of community on campus and the close relationship between the students and the professors. “In France, going for lunch with your professor is unbelievable,” said Bouyer. 

Living in dorms or houses on campus is something completely new for international students who are used to living at home or sharing an apartment in their cities. What Camila Ogando, an Overseas Student Assistant from Argentina, likes the most is living at the Romance Language House. It allows all students to live in an international community, which she says “[is] like a big family with different traditions.”

Even though most of the international students agree that the advantages in studying at Dickinson College are having small classes, the relationship between students and professors, the beautiful campus, and the feeling of an inclusive community, among others, they have also noticed some cultural differences.

They do not really understand why people’s attitude towards others can change day by day. “You realize it is a habit of being friendly rather than intentional,” says Bouyer. “However, when you come across the same person the following days, they feel like they are another person.”

Hussin explains how she came across this person on campus the following days and she waved at her with a smile. When the person ignored her, Hussin thought, “She saw me. She was not [somewhere else]. Well, OK, no waving anymore.” 

Other international students agreed.

“They [Americans] are not interested in making deeper connections. And they do not really show how they truly feel,” affirms Camila. 

This is a social norm that frustrates them the most. “Part of the norm here in America is to compliment and be friendly. This is how you are being a nice person,” said Bouyer. 

Despite these differences, when studying abroad, you must experience this process and note that not all students engage with the process in the same way. And in the end, it is the journey to adapt to a foreign culture that matters most.