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Cultural Connection

Going away to college is a huge adjustment. It is the first time many students are living away from home and their first chance at independence. Some go to college with friends from high school but for others, college represents a fresh start to wipe the slate clean.

But imagine going to a completely different country – with a different language and culture – for college. For Emmanuel’s international students, that is the risk they decide to take.

One of those students is Xara Tejada ’15 from Guatemala. She found Emmanuel when she was visiting her brother at boarding school and fell in love with Boston. From there, she knew she wanted a small school and Emmanuel was the perfect fit.

“I knew I wanted a small college because I can’t deal with such a big class and not knowing your professor,” Tejada said. “My college counselor told me about Emmanuel and it worked itself out, I guess.”

For her, the biggest adjustment has been being away from her family. Tejada texts them every day and talks on Skype every other day but being away from home hasn’t been easy, especially when she can only go back to Guatemala during the long breaks.

“I still haven’t [gotten used to it],” Tejada said in an interview. “I lived my whole life with them so it’s hard getting used to not seeing them every day because we have such a good relationship.”

Like Tejada, Rossana Alvarez ’14, from Nicaragua, is very close with her family. They share a Vonage plan so texting and talking on the phone isn’t an issue. Although they are a tight-knit bunch, Alvarez’s family didn’t discourage her from attending school outside of Nicaragua.

“It’s not typical for people to stay in Nicaragua for college. All my family came here for college at BC and Babson,” Alvarez said. “No one stays at home; my parents were like, ‘Please leave, we can’t let you stay here.’”

For Alvarez, the most challenging aspect of her transition has been speaking English constantly and the mannerisms of Americans, like burping in public.

“People [in Nicaragua] are so conservative in public but people here don’t hide things,” Alvarez said. “They say whatever they want.”

Joao Vitor Costa de Sa ’15 of Brazil also noticed cultural differences when he came to Emmanuel. Known as JV to his friends, he has noticed that compared to places like Switzerland, where he went to boarding school, Americans are more closed off and less touchy-feely. He ending up choosing Emmanuel for its size compared to his boarding school as well as its location in Boston.

“[I wanted] the ability of expanding my horizons. It may sound a tad generic but it’s just the whole fact of possibilities, I suppose,” Costa de Sa said. “Boston’s supposed to be this place full of younglings and colleges and all that. So if I didn’t like this place, I could just move somewhere else close by to have the chances and possibilities.”

Tejada, Alvarez and Costa de Sa are not alone in their decision to leave their homeland for education in America. According to U.S. News & World Report, the percentage of international students attending U.S. colleges and graduate schools keeps increasing. From the 2010-2011 school year to 2011-2012, there was a 5.7% increase in international enrollment at American universities.

According to the admissions office, Emmanuel is home to students from 35 different countries. And while need-based aid does not apply to international applicants, Emmanuel does offer a limited number of merit scholarships each year and provides a dedicated counselor, Stephanie Sweeney, who works with incoming international students.

On campus, there are also multiple clubs and organizations that act as a family for the international students on campus. There is the Association of Countries Cultures, Events, Nations and Traditions (ACCENT), the Asian Student Association (ASA), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Cape Verdean Student Association (CVSA), and Helping Latinos to Lead and Achieve Success (HUELLAS). These organizations help provide an American family for international students while they remain far away from their real families.

Costa de Sa says his “main core family” supported his decision to come to Emmanuel, which made him the first of their clan to study outside of Brazil. But obviously, they still miss him.

“Thanks to all the technology, we can just Skype and stuff and be like, ‘What’s up,’” he remarked with a smirk.

Posted by on April 12, 2013. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.