CONTRIBUTED BY LILA GORDON
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY | Temple University’s Office of Student Affairs and Office of International Resident Affairs hosted the third annual Global Gala in Mitten Hall on Friday, November ninth. Free for all attendees, the festival celebrates the diverse backgrounds of Temple’s international students. Many student organizations, such as the Confucius Institute and the Bangladeshi Student Org, held booths with art projects, games, and snacks relating to their respective cultures.
In addition to these clubs, there were twelve performances. These performances ranged from belly dancing, to a Chinese pop duet, to a cellist solo. All of the acts were met with great enthusiasm by the audience, with excited and enthusiastic responses from the crowd.
Many international students, some of whom were involved with international student orgs their freshman year, received an email about the event requesting volunteers. At the Gala, these volunteers wore “International Owls” pins.
One such student discussed her freshman experience as an international student from China. Hui Zhao, currently a junior marketing major, felt very welcomed by Temple University. She likes the diversity at this school, and has been involved with international organizations since she arrived. While these organizations are demanding, to her, they are worth it.
Chang Zhao, a senior Finance major at Temple, also from China, felt similarly welcomed by Temple University. Still, there’s been culture shock.
“For example,” Zhao said, “When people say hi and compliment me – it’s not something I was used to. At first I couldn’t tell whether it was genuine or not. Also, people really like butter here.”
While Zhao is happy about Temple’s welcoming attitude, she is dismayed by the difficulties her and her fellow international students face in procuring internships.
“As people on student visas, we can only work for Temple. So, when Temple does not offer us options that relate to our career, it’s not good,” Zhao said.
In this aspect, Zhao thinks Temple could do better for its international students.
While some international students have been educated in English in their home countries, other students experience English language coursework for the first time when they join Temple’s campus. To compensate, Temple offers an Intensive English Language Program for international residents. The courses are intensive, and last a minimum of seven weeks. The programs are not limited to matriculated students, but many international students at Temple take advantage of these courses.
Ivy Nyugen, senior Media Studies and Production student at Temple, is from Vietnam. Before she came to the United States three years ago, she did not even know she wanted to study abroad for her undergraduate degree. After her grandmother suggested the idea, she applied to Temple. Upon her acceptance, she enrolled in the Intensive English Language Program.
Through this program, she met many friends. However, she did observe that this doesn’t come naturally for everyone.
“I think there should be efforts to inform non international students of the benefits they can gain by interacting with their peers from different countries,” Nyugen said.
Overall, Nyugen is grateful for the new perspectives she has after her time at Temple.
Hassan Farrash, a junior computer science major, is also a graduate from Temple’s Intensive English Language Program. He described how, at times, assumptions about students’ backgrounds can prove a challenge in some classes.
“In my major, it is mostly international students. Even the professors. With Gen-Eds, it has been a different story. I took Youth Cultures, and the course was only about the United States high school experience. I barely passed. I went to my Professor and I was like, ’I want to learn, but I need you to teach me.’ He just assumed we all came from the same background.”
Generally, though, Farrash said he has felt welcome at Temple. He has not visited his home country Saudi Arabia since he arrived in the states – instead, he travels throughout the Americas whenever he can.
The diversity of Temple’s student population was on full display at this year’s Global Gala, a myriad of students discussing their backgrounds and sharing their stories under one roof.