Foreign exchange students gain insight
September 24, 2009 9:49 PM
Dressed in a pink polo shirt the shade of Pepto-Bismol and blue jeans, 21-year-old British student Jamie Trigg said he was lied to.
"Someone told me San Francisco would be sunny all the time," Trigg said. "I expected sun here; I was ready to soak it up."
Trigg is working the International Education Exchange Council's table with a group of other foreign exchange students in the Malcolm X Plaza. Laughing at the absurdity of a harpist playing on stage in the background, Trigg and his fellow British mate, Archie Maddocks, ponder the differences between people here and back home.
"Everyone's friendly, it's strange," Trigg said. "I was carrying a mattress with my roommates and some random bloke offered us a lift."
So what draws some of the 212 foreign exchange students from more than 20 countries to campus?
Coordinator and Associate Director of the Office of International Programs My Yarabinec, said first, it's location and second, SF State has had 100 percent positive results in satisfaction surveys given to former foreign exchange students last spring.
"Students overseas want to experience San Francisco and our campus is one of the top destinations," Yarabinec said.
Part of those high satisfaction marks, he said, come from the support that the IEEC gives to foreign exchange students.
With weekly social events like pub night, movie night and weekend trips, IEEC brings together international and American students, said Publicity Committee Co-chair Maffy Kelly.
Co-chair for IEEC's Special Events Committee, Deborah Patton, who loves American politics and has her own "Obama Mama" t-shirt, said she was attracted to SF State for its criminal justice program.
What Patton didn't expect was the structure of her courses. At Cardiff University in Wales, she said, students would go to lectures, receive a reading list and take a final exam.
"There's a lot of work straight-up here, you're assessed continually," Patton said. "At home you could potentially not go to class, doss about, and be lazy until the end."
Patton, 21, who's in her last year of college, said the format of her classes at SF State is better for her now that she's older. She said having to interact and talk in front of the class, as she often does here, would have made her anxious if she was a freshman. At Cardiff, she said, there is no interaction with professors during class. Here, she said, her professors "can't get me to shut up."
For marketing student Samir Nezic, 21, who loves the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, classes are much easier here.
"You have things like multiple choice tests here," Nezic said. "We don't have any of that in Sweden."
Even though Nezic believes SF State has easier courses, he said the professors are more interactive with students, giving better examples of "real world experience."
Literature major Archie Maddocks, 20, is impressed with the strong black educational options offered on campus.
"Back home I could take one unit of race and racism," said Maddocks, a foreign exchange student from the University of East Anglia in England. "Here I could get a whole degree in Black studies."
IEEC Staff Advisor Noah Kuchins, a 2004 SF State graduate who studied in France through the exchange program, said that the experience you gain from studying abroad is invaluable.
"I would say that 99 percent of students, when done with this experience, will feel bi-cultural, like they've adopted a city," Kuchins said. "The connection with San Francisco will mean something to them, stay with them. It's almost universal with all foreign exchange students."
For more information on the IEEC and SF State's foreign exchange programs, students can visit the OIP office in the Administration building, room 458A. More information can be found at user.www.sfsu.edu.
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