International student discussion gives insight into cultural learning habits

International students had the opportunity to talk about cultural differences and various issues at Shippensburg University on Thursday, Feb. 28.

Tomoko Kudo Grabosky, who is a counselor at the SU Counseling Center, moderated the discussion.

Karen Hoch, president of the International Student Organization, who is from Yokohama, Japan, was one of the students who attended.

When Tomoko lived in Japan, she lived very close to Yokohama.

She compared it to the distance between Shippensburg and Newville.

The other student who attended was John Enerah. He is from Nigeria and is experiencing SU for the first time.

It is also his first time in America.

They all discussed topics ranging from classroom etiquette to different ways to initiate a friendly encounter.

The common etiquette that runs throughout American culture is very different and hard to adjust to when seen through the eyes of an international student.

Enerah first taste of American culture was a friendly one.

“In terms of lending helping hands, I think here is very good. Because back in Nigeria, not everyone wants to talk to a stranger,” Enerah said.

“Anyone you just talk to and ask for help, they just listen to you, and when they can help you, they help you.”

Personal interactions can be different across cultures. For Americans, we are used to shaking hands, high fives, hugging, and when we are in a hurry, the head nod.

But for Hoch, when Americans greet each other, she sees them as interacting very closely with one another.

“I think Americans are definitely more physically close,” Hoch said. “Hugging is considered normal between friends.

I would hug my American friends because that is the norm, but with my Japanese girlfriends, we would just hold hands.”

At this point in the discussion, Hoch demonstrated what she meant by “holding hands,” with Kudo.

They both held their hands out and interlocked fingers. Then at the same time, made a shaking hands motion which was accompanied by bursts of laughter.

The mannerisms by American students in college classrooms are ones that we may have noticed in our time here at SU.

Some various mannerisms prevalent in today’s classrooms are: texting, sleeping, slouching and sometimes relaxing.

Things are very different in Nigeria.

Students are taught to sit straight, almost at a 90- degree angle.

They are taught a high-level of respect for their instructors.

Both of our school systems use the raising of the hand as a signal to be answered.

The difference is that in Nigeria, they only raise their right hand, but with only the pointer finger extended.

Almost similar to the foam fingers sold at sporting events.

Also in America, students have no issue with attempting to answer questions, even if the answer may be wrong.

In Nigeria, if a student does not know the answer to a question, he or she does not attempt to answer.

Students in America have extra incentives to try and answer questions.

Many teachers include participation points in their assessment of the student.

For students like Hoch, she feels that she is required to make a question up in order to get the points.

Kudo said the quality of questions asked should be more important than quantity of questions asked.

In Nigeria, classrooms are emphasized on natural intelligence, not artificial intelligence.

Enerah said students only bring a pen and paper.

They do not bring textbooks, phones or any other type of technology.

Enerah is also used to having 200–300 classmates — much different than the 30–50 classmates found in the average classroom at SU.

Nevertheless, this group discussion was one that was filled with many observations about cultural differences.

The next group discussion is on Thursday, March 28, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The discussion will be held in CUB Room 234.

International students are encouraged to attend.

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