Coffee Hour Series: A Red Blend

International Center provides space to talk about experiences at WSU, cultural differences



Students at the International Student Center play a round of Uno while chatting about important topics, Compton Union Building, Mar. 4

CAROLYN MCCAMPBELL, Evergreen columnist

Last Friday, the International Center held their weekly Coffee Hour Series as a Red Table Talk. International students shared their personal experiences at WSU over a game of UNO, chatting with their friends. 

One of the larger differences talked about at the table was how different educational systems were when compared to the American collegiate system. 

“I think the biggest difference would be that, even though we [both] have college, basically mass lectures, but here the class sizes are much smaller,” said Aleksi Nikkanen, postgrad law and business student from Finland. “We don’t really have homework or assignments at all, but here we have to do assignments almost every day.”

The idea of larger classrooms and not really getting to know professors personally were echoed by other international students as well. 

Hubert Wang, junior accounting major from Taiwan, said he experienced a similar struggle. He said that in the U.S., professors encourage conversation in classrooms and will practically force a student to speak in class.

“When I first came, it was kind of hard to just start talking in class,” Wang said. “Students just express their opinions more.” 

Another culture shock common among foreign students, was how friendly American students seem to be when compared to their international counterparts, wrote Kristine Nødgaard-Nielsen in her article from the California Aggie.

In her article, she interviewed some international students. Something that struck a chord with them was the coconut – peach analogy. 

Americans are like peaches. They are soft on the outside and easy to approach. However, when you get to the pit, it is more difficult to make true, lasting friendships, Nielsen wrote. 

“In contrast, many other nationals will be like coconuts,” Nielsen wrote. “It is hard to get inside, but once you are there, it is pleasant and you are real friends when you have gotten through the tough exterior.”

This was a common theme for the international students at WSU as well. Nikkanen experienced a bit of a culture shock when his acquaintances would say hello to him in passing and then just keep walking.

“The first couple of times I stopped, and I thought we were going to have a discussion or something, so that was a little bit weird,” he said.

For Europeans, who tend to keep a certain distance from strangers, this at first is a welcome change, Nielsen wrote. But when they realize that “how are you?” only means “hi,” they often see it as a lack of genuineness from Americans.

Another big difference was food. One student, Ethan Teh, junior computer science major, emphasized that the Chinese and Asian food here are not as good as those from Malaysia, where he is from. He said that it was similar, but it was trying to be Chinese cuisine rather than just being Chinese.

Both Nikkanen and Wang said the food was something they missed the most about their home countries. 

“Food in Nordic countries is way different than here,” Nikkanen said. “For example, fast food, we only eat maybe once in a month at the most.”

If you missed your chance to chat at the IC coffee hour series, don’t worry, there is one more before spring break arrives. This Friday at 3 p.m., the IC is partnering the Graduate and Professional Student Association to host a Family-Life Balance meeting in Butch’s Den, lower level of the CUB, said Wyatt Kayl, senior business marketing and advertising double major and a Campus Friends intern.