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Huddled together in an intimate room in the International Office at B.D. Owen’s Library, students from around the Midwest and around the globe gathered to discuss culture shock and holidays at the First Friday Culture Talk Oct 4.

After brief introductions from students, the floor opened to discuss how culture shock can feel for students not native to the U.S.

Some talked about their favorite holidays. Some talked about the food they missed from home.

Other topics such as currency, traditions and town size were popular; however, the idea of being culturally sensitive and aware were the main topics.

Senior Valentine Osakwe, an international student from Nigeria, talked about his experience of people not being knowledgeable about his country.

“This is a true conversation I had with someone,” Osakwe said. “I told them I’m from Nigeria. They looked at me and said, ‘Do you ride donkeys? Do you ride camels? How did you get here?’ Keep in mind, I’m from Lagos, the largest city in West Africa. I looked them in the eye and said, ‘My father is the chief of our clan. He built a giant catapult and threw me across the continent.’” 

Other international students talked about how well-meaning, but often times ignorant, statements can impact their self-esteem.

Graduate student Arpana Pokhrel said it often comes in the form of making comments about her English.

“When someone says, ‘Wow, your English is really good,’ it hurts a little,” Pokhrel said. “We grow up learning English, so it’s a little insulting when people are surprised. I just have a different accent is all.”

Other students nodded their heads, echoing the statement. Some even said they learned English as early as kindergarten.

More students opened up about their experiences of people asking questions that made them uncomfortable. 

“I’m from China,” YunHao Li said. “I had someone ask if I ate dog. That blew my mind. I would never ask someone a question like that.”

However, culture shock wasn’t limited to international students. Junior Meghan McMurray spent a large portion of her life abroad.

“Honestly, sometimes I have more culture shock coming back to the U.S. than I do going overseas,” McMurray said. 

Other U.S. students said coming to Maryville was a culture shock in itself. Sophomore Shay Midkiff talked about moving from a city to Maryville.

“I’m from Kansas City, so coming to Maryville is a very different experience,” Midkiff said. “At my elementary school I heard, like, 35 different languages.”

However, one thing that people agreed no matter where they came from was the importance of seeking out knowledge about other cultures.

“It’s OK not to know everything,” McMurray said. “But it’s not OK to be willfully ignorant.”

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