Global Perspectives panel highlights international students at App State

Rachel Rodgers and Kai Owen

Some App State students may know what it’s like to miss a home that’s only miles away. Even fewer students can recount firsthand experiences of what it’s like to attend a college that’s oceans away from home. 

Five international students joined together Nov. 15 to present International Appalachian’s Global Perspectives panel, where international students teach students and the community about their personal experiences with global education and travel.

INTAPP is an organization at App State with the mission of providing students with information about the globalizing world and sharing interests of other cultures and countries. 

Nikolas Mihalik, a member of INTAPP and the spokesperson guiding the questions for panelists, moved to America from Bulgaria less than two years ago. 

“Having international students talking about their own countries and cultures with their perspectives on the United States helps to bring in a more international view of the U.S.,” said Mihalik, a sophomore international business major. 

The panelists led with stories about what it’s like for international students to attend the university. Students talked about their journey to Boone, their first impressions of the U.S., daily life, homesickness and the similarities and cultural differences they discovered when adjusting to life in America. 

Panelist Marc Pfrogner, a business graduate student from Germany, said that he found schooling here less strict and gained opportunities for more individual freedoms. He said the schooling in Germany is very similar to the 12-year schooling system. 

“Students here are very involved, and you meet a lot of friendly people,” Pfrogner said. 

Armando Valencia, a student and panelist from Mexico, spoke on his experiences in America and said college students have more freedom when they live away from their parents, their houses and are more involved with friends, their campus and the people they meet from events. Valencia said he felt particularly connected to southern culture. 

“I feel like it’s not the same for everyone but I feel like the majority of my adult life has been spent with southern people,” Valencia said. “I think they are really connected to each other and support each other just like in Mexico we do.” 

Preet Patel, a freshman computer science major on the panel, recounted her surprise when she found out that it’s common for students in the U.S. to have undeclared majors. She said she had to declare a college major during her junior year of high school in India, or else she would risk repeating high school.

“American education is more practical,” Patel said. “We never had extra curriculars in India.” 

Robert Onjiko, a graduate biology student, shared his educational experiences during the panel and compared them to Kenyan education. He said Kenya’s education maintained a “competitive” environment, resulting in students being more reserved with their knowledge. Onjiko said the difference in education in America is the focus on understanding the content.

“It’s not a matter of you have to get an A. It’s a matter of you have to get the content,” Onjiko said.

Many panelists described their home countries as a close-knit community where they see the same students every day and typically live with their families close to school. 

 Several of the students talked about how friendly the people of Boone are and how it has made their experiences enjoyable. 

Myrthe Loyen came to the U.S. from Belgium to study architecture. Loyen said during the panel that she wasn’t used to the friendly rush of compliments App State students give, and said it’s been fun to give them back. 

When the panelists were asked what they would miss if they had to go back to their home country right now, the students agreed they would miss their friends, the close connections they made through INTAPP, the college experience, American foods and unique experiences they were able to share.