Cultures merge for international students

Kendra Loh (left), freshman psychology major from Malaysia, who works in Safety and Security, helps Haley Gallagher, senior business administration major, with a parking question. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Katlyn Moncada

Three months ago, freshman Kendra Loh was eating dinner with family in her home country of Malaysia. Today, she is a student who has traveled across the world to attend Union University.

Like Loh, international students from all over the world have been winding up at Union’s door. The 20 countries  currently represented at Union are: Bosnia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ethopia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Norway, Scotland, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago.

Many international students come to Union for athletic purposes, however, some have other motivations.

Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, so growing up in a Christian home, as Loh did, is unusual. Her parents became Christians as adults. When searching for schools, Loh wanted to go to a Christian university and heard from a friend that Union was a good place.

When moving to the United States from another country, the term “culture shock” may come to mind. Loh heard moving may be emotional for those leaving their home countries for the first time. However, she said she has been doing fine.

“My friend was already living here,” Loh said. “She would tell us everything and what to expect, so I didn’t experience much culture shock.”

Though she has been adapting to  Union well, Loh still misses her family. While many Malaysian families are larger in size, she only has one brother. Loh also craves the food and spices of her country.

Transfer student and music major from the Czech Republic, Marie Adamkova has also been getting settled in Jackson. She said she chose Union after hearing of the music program from a friend. Adamkova said she misses family and friends from home, as well as public transportation.

“It wasn’t necessarily difficult (to move), but it takes time to settle down and get used to a brand new style of life,” she said. “The help of the Institute for International and Intercultural Studies was good in particular.”

When new international students arrive, the institute helps them get settled on campus. Mary Beth Martin, advisor to international students, said the goal of the institute is to help the students assimilate to the community at Union.

“We want them to adapt to the campus … learn the culture and how to navigate it,” Martin said. “Our students do a great job of integrating themselves.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.

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