Internationals Make Texas Home
Country music blared as the scuttles and thuds of boots scooting and stomping across the carpeted floor of Shelton Theater beckoned Texans and those from afar to dance the night away.
Guests who attended Texas Night Thursday, Oct. 3, participated in two-stepping as well as American line dances to songs like “Copperhead Road” and the “Cupid Shuffle.“
“We’re providing an environment for international students to meet American students, and for friendships to grow out of it,” junior Christian ministry major and co-leader of International Ministry Madison Prado said. “We’re hoping for them to be able to reconnect outside of this event and be friends.”
Included in the array of refreshments were Texas-inspired dishes like Texas toast, chips and queso, guacamole and Dr Pepper.
From advertisements on the sidewalks and by word of mouth, students, both American and international, learned about the event. Freshman marketing major Jason Zhou from China went because of an email from his reading and listening professor.
“I decided to come because I thought the night would be fun. I have met a lot of people,” Zhou said. “I learned how to dance here. Before tonight, I just watched it on TV. I have danced with many girls, and I learned some things about Texas-style dancing.”
Texas Night is part of a broader effort to welcome students from other countries into the family.
The International Student Service office at 803 College Street has a purple and gold banner on the front door that reads “GO CRU.”
Most Crusaders will never walk past this door and discover what lies beyond it. However, the international students find a community they can relate to behind the entrance.
“People are people no matter what country they’re from,” Director of International Student Services Elizabeth Tanaka said. “Everybody is just hoping that somebody is going to smile at them and say hello; that’s all it takes.”
Individuals who come to the United States from countries all around the world face many obstacles upon entering a new university located in a foreign country where almost everything is different.
Freshman cell biology major Sahana Gollapalli did not know what to expect when she came to the United States from Mumbai, India.
“I decided to watch movies to learn about America. The first movie I watched was unfortunately Mean Girls, and it terrified me,” Gollapalli said. “I was really nervous, but when I came here, it was totally different. People are nice here. Nobody is going to try to push me in front of a bus.”
A common struggle for many international students is communication. The challenge to fit in and make friends becomes more difficult .
“When I first came, I struggled with my language,” graduate business administration major Vivian Du said. “What we learn in China is more like Chinglish. It’s like Chinese-English, which isn’t really useful. It doesn’t make sense over here. So I took a lot of effort to improve my pronunciation and communication.”
Large cities like Mumbai or Beijing have huge public transportation networks while Belton is isolating for those who do not have cars.
“In China you don’t need to have a car,” Du said. “You can take the subway. You can take the buses, taxi, ride your bike. But here everything is so spread out. You have to have a car to even go grocery shopping.”
The adjustment process becomes easier when students branch out and get involved with campus activities and organizations.
“I learned that I cannot sit and expect people to come and talk to me,” Gollapalli said. She is an active member of Search Cru, Remschel Hall House Council, Cross Cultural Cru and the ASTRA Club. “I have to go get involved and do things so that people will come and talk to me,”
Junior communication major Joshua Bradshaw came from South London, England, and received a work study position with the Campus Activities Board. He’s learned a lot from his job already.
“Working for the CAB office has been great. I want to be in youth ministry when I’m older, so the experience that I get here is really beneficial in terms of what planning an event will look like.
Another organization that is centered on bridging the gap between cultures is Cross Cultural Cru. The group is composed of international students who focus on making American students aware of others.
Some of the events hosted by Cross Cultural Cru are Culture Night and a new pre-game face painting event at Crusader football home games, a routine that started this semester.
“They will paint Chinese characters or Hindi characters for ‘fight’ and ‘win,’” faculty sponsor of Cross Cultural Cru Tanaka said. “It’s such a perfect blend. Football is pure American culture and they’re bringing in their languages and making it part of that experience in a really unique way.”