Incoming international students embrace Union life, face challenges

By Jake Fain
Staff Writer

Two incoming international students not only have to adjust to campus life but they must, for the first time, take college classes in a foreign language.

One is Elisabeth Kristensen, freshman broadcast journalism major and psychology minor, who recently left her family in Norway to attend Union. Kristensen only arrived shortly before the beginning of the fall semester.

Kristensen had visited Union’s campus in 2011 and said she felt as though God wanted her to be here.

She had never been in a situation where she had to speak only English, she said.

Although Kristensen studied British English for nine years, she still has frequent headaches due to the stress of evaluating everything she must say before saying it.

“It is a culture shock for me,” Kristensen said. “It’s just coping with the differences. It’s knowing when you seem polite or [seem] rude, because it’s very different compared to communicating with other Norwegians.”

Kristensen also watches television to learn more about speaking the more American version of English. Though she misses her family, the decision to attend a school far from her home was entirely her choice, she said.

“I do miss my family, but in our culture we believe that you must be self-made, and I really feel that this is where God wants me to be,” Kristensen said. “It just feels like home.”

She has been active in a church since age 13 and is now searching for a local church to call home.

“I loved my church in Norway,” Kristensen said. “It’s what I miss most. Now I’m just looking for where God wants me to be.”

One of the biggest challenges that Kristensen has faced is the shift in diet.

“My roommate and I are both so used to eating fresh foods, and it is so much harder to find as much here,” she said. “It’s also much more expensive.”

Kristensen originally intended to major in theater but felt that broadcast journalism offered more career options and is an easier field in which to start out.

Kristensen also has trained in a variety of dance, ranging from ballet to jazz and modern styles, and plays guitar and piano.

The other student is Noemi Sisalema, a freshman business major and theology minor. She is from Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Sisalema, like Kristensen, is still attempting to get used to speaking conversational English. Sisalema only had an opportunity to practice speaking English once or twice a year with missionaries while growing up, she said.

“My parents and I have all prayed for a very long time that I would get the opportunity to come to Union,” Sisalema said. “Now that I’m here it just feels so different … If you didn’t agree with the teacher’s point of view, then you were more than likely going to be singled out by them.”

Her father found out about Union University from a student during a short visit to the United States and decided that it was the perfect environment for his daughter to be free to learn as well as be open about her Christian faith.

“I do miss my family, but I will get to go home and see them all during the Christmas break,” Sisalema said. “I just wish I could see some snow.”

She also has been trying to experience things that may seem very common to most Americans, such as roller skating.

Though she fell down a few times, she said she enjoyed the experience.

Sisalema hopes to gain the foundation she needs at Union so that she might be able to one day build a children’s foundation in Quito that would take care of underprivileged or neglected children.

About Cardinal & Cream 1009 Articles
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.