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International students battle culture shock

International students make up approximately one percent of the population at Seton Hall, according to the College Board's Web site, and because these students are so few and far between, many find it difficult to adjust to their new culture.

Freshman Sagarika Gujar, a diplomacy major who was born and raised in India, had only a bit of knowledge of American culture before coming to Seton Hall.

Gujar said that while she does not feel homesick, she sometimes finds American culture difficult to navigate.

"It's just like, two completely different worlds, you can't even compare," Gujar said.

What Gujar noticed the most was the way Americans pay for items.
"(It feels like) you have to pay to breathe here," Gujar said, explaining that in India, no one pays for things over time. Cars and houses for example, are paid for in one sitting.

Freshman Aramide Afolabi, diplomacy major and an international student from Nigeria, added that these material items cost the same amount, if not more, in his home country as in the United States, but people save more and children stay with their parents longer, sometimes well into adulthood.

"I grew up near the equator, it's so cold to me here," Afolabi said, adding, "everything is different, it smells different, even the water tastes different."

As for culture shock, Afolabi said she believes it comes in stages.
"For the first week, I think you're really excited like, ‘oh I can eat cheeseburgers all the time,'" Afolabi said. "Then, in the second week it starts to wear off and you get kind of homesick, and in the third week you start to get frustrated (with the cultural differences)."

Both Afolabi and Gujar said they both wish there was a better orientation geared specifically towards international students.

"We went to the regular freshmen orientation, but it was a little difficult because we didn't know a lot of things," Gujar said, explaining that she had asked where to buy some things she needed for her dorm, and had been told to go to Target.

"I didn't know what ‘Target' was,"Gujar said.

Maria Soares, director of the office of international programs, said that the office holds a mandatory orientation for international students twice a year.

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"We introduce them to Msgr. Sheeran, and other administrators…give them information about visas and how to avoid deportation…financial information including information about employment…and academic information," Soares said.

Gujar, however, felt that in her orientation, there was a lot said about visas, security, and deportation, but not a lot about other aspects of American culture.

"It was a lot of do this, don't do that…it scared me a little bit," Gujar said.
Gujar added that she wished the orientation would have taken place a little earlier in the semester. The one she attended took place about three weeks after school had begun.

Msgr. Sheeran recently announced in a broadcast message that he had created a task force, called Internationalization 2.0, to help improve international programs at Seton Hall.

According to Dr. Juergen Heinrichs, chair of the Internationalization 2.0 task force, the internationalization process began back in 2007 with Seton Hall's acceptance into the American Council on Education Internationalization laboratory initiative.

ACE allowed Seton Hall to examine its internationalization efforts, Heinrichs said. Now, the Industrialization 2.0 task force will make recommendations for improvement.

"We want to be able to implement comprehensive internationalization, as ACE said," Heinrichs said, adding that the task force did not want to spend it's time "running around trying to put out little fires."

Heinrichs said that one of the biggest problems with the international programs is a lack of centralization and communication.

"Some of the things the international students complain about have already been fixed, but they are unaware of it," Heinrichs said, adding that he wants OIP to become more visible on campus.

"The amount of international students had increased, but the amounts of resources have not," Heirnichs said.

Caitlin Carroll can be reached at


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