International Students on Campus

It’s amazing how many international students you will see on campus. There are so many here that it’s hard to not run into one wherever you go. Whether you’re at work, in class, hanging out in the dorm lobby, or eating dinner in the cafeteria, you are almost always sure to see an international student around.

I work as a receptionist for the university’s pharmacy, and we frequently have international students use our services. Interestingly, of all the international students at OU, it is mostly the Asian and French students who use us the most. I rarely see people from any other part of Europe or from Latin-America, and I only see Middle-Eastern students on occasion. Maybe it is because that is where most of the international students are from, but I don’t know. It is simply an interesting trend.

In several of my classes, I am friends with some of the international students. One of the things they frequently mention is that the language barrier often makes it difficult to understand what is being asked. For instance, a problem in physics asked to find the force of a tow truck on another car. My friend didn’t know what a tow truck was, so he didn’t know how to answer the question even though he knew how to do the physics. They also frequently mention how much easier the classes are here than in their home countries. I have a friend in my engineering class who is from Israel, and she is always talking about how surprised she was that the class is so easy. She said she doesn’t even have to try to do well here, but back home she has to work really hard just to receive the equivalent of a C.

It’s kind of weird sometimes when you are in a public place and hear a group of people talking in another language. Many times, they speak in the other language because they don’t want others to know what they are saying. I was studying in the lobby of my dorm, and a group of people came in and started taking in Arabic nearby. I didn’t think much of it until they started glancing over at me frequently, as though they wanted to make sure I didn’t know what they were saying. Fortunately for them, I didn’t, but it kind of made me nervous knowing that they could say whatever they wanted in front of me, and I wouldn’t have a clue. So at that moment, I was really wishing I knew Arabic. But other times, it can be very amusing when you actually do know what they are saying. My brother worked for a drywall company for a while, and once when he was making a delivery to a job site, he saw a group of Mexican workers chatting and laughing nearby. My brother is very proficient in Spanish, so he actually knew what they were saying. They were laughing at him, and making fun of him for being a “white boy.” So my brother walked up to them and said to them, in Spanish, “this white boy knows what you’re saying” and walked off. My brother said they stopped talking after that. You never know if the people you are laughing at might actually know what you are saying.

Another place you can frequently see international students is in the cafeteria. It is interesting to see different people’s preferences to different types of food. Typically, the students will eat the food most similar to what they are used to, but then they always complain about how it is nothing like what they are used to. And if they do eat American food, they eat it the wrong way. Like eating french fries with forks and cutting sandwiches into bite-size pieces. But hey. There is always more than one way to eat each food. I mean, my roommate usually eat cheesecake with chopsticks! And honestly, it tastes better that way anyway.