Friends from far and wide

Nick Muscavage

Staff Writer

[email protected]

April 9, 2015

Matthew Scott lives in downtown Albany and commutes by bus everyday to his classes at the University at Albany. He eats the food offered on campus and converses with any friendly face he comes by, because to him, that is the best way to meet new friends. It isn’t apparent that Scott just moved to the United States from India three years as part of the International Student and Scholar Services through UAlbany.

Scott, a senior now with a double major in Accounting and Business Administration, says making friends wasn’t always so easy. As somebody who only attended the last day of his UAlbany orientation, Scott was already at a disadvantage. That, coupled with his lack of understanding American English, did not expedite the process.

“I had to find out things on my own, I didn’t even know what the ISSS (International Student and Scholar Services) office was. I was a bit clueless at that point,” said Scott. Through his laughter, he continued, “I couldn’t understand what pancakes were or what waffles were.”

There are around 1,700 students involved in the international student program here at UAlbany, explained Michael Elliot, the Director of International and Student Scholar Services. India, along with China and South Korea send the most students to UAlbany out of the 97 countries that  the university hosts in the international studies program. These numbers are inline with most universities in America with international programs, said Elliot.

“One thing we try to work towards is bringing American students together with international students because one of the best ways to get to know a culture is building individual relationships,” said Elliot.

Some of the ways ISSS accomplishes this is through their clubs and programs. One such program is Cultural Connections, which strives to bring American students together with international students, and was founded by graduate student Ami Jordan who is in the Asian and Asian American Studies program at UAlbany.

Two other programs are International Friendship Partners and the Buddies Program, in which American students and international students to begin writing each other before the international student comes to UAlbany and then hypothetically continue their friendship in person once here.

Scott joined other clubs such as the Sankofa Africa Association, where he held the position of Treasurer last year. He learned about other cultures and helped raise awareness for impoverished parts of Africa through fundraising and other means. He also met friends through other friends and from there his circle of acquaintances grew. He learned many things from the people he met, one of the most important to him was the word “please.”

“I was so rude when I came here.” said Scott. It’s not that India is rude, it’s just that please isn’t in the vocabulary, he explained. After he learned the word, his friends had to stop him from excessively applying the word when meeting people.

Not all international students take up the adventurous do-it-yourself approach as Scott did. Yumi Nakada, a second-year Japanese international student, according to her friends, is known for her always smiling face, utilized the programs offered by the ISSS.

She decided to study in Albany to improve her English and also because she liked the diversity and the landscapes of the area. She explained that Albany is relaxing due to its backdrop of nature compared to New York City. She majors in sociology but her department specifically focuses on culture, media and society. Nakada did attend her international student orientation unlike Scott.

American studies are more individual while Japan is more focused on group activity, she said on the varying styles of education. Elliot explained that this has to do with the different cultures, stating that American people are individualistic while people in Japan, like other countries such as India and China, are more collective.

Nakada has two buddies through the Buddies Program. One is a freshman American student studying Japanese. The other buddy is an American student who went to Japan to study internationally but they stay in contact.

“I didn’t have any connections before coming here.” She continued by explaining that when she has troubles she can ask her buddy who always has good advice and is able to make her feel relaxed. Her niceness is very helpful, explained Nakada.

Along with the Buddies Program she is also a member of the Japanese Student Association as well as the Frisbee club team. The Japanese Student Association is a way for American students in the club to learn about Japanese culture, food, and tradition, and vice versa.

Elliot said on American and International student relationships, “The more close you get the more in depth those discussions become about really the differences between the cultures and upbringing rather than just food differences or dress differences but going in depth to religion and politics and family.”

The Albany Student Press

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