Did you know there are currently 172 students from other countries at MCTC? That’s just counting the ones on F-1 visas, according to Anni Bowers, International Student advisor. These students face multiple costs relocating to study and do not qualify for Financial Aid. International Students must have extensive health insurance for the duration of their stay, as well as proof of sufficient funds to pay for classes. However, once they start talking, these students hold a wealth of tales and experiences.
Taeju works in Admissions. He was happy to share his “adventures,” and was a mature and easy conversationalist. The United States is not his first time abroad, as he spent two years on a working holiday visa in Australia. For South Koreans these are easy to get. While away he used his natural work ethic to impress his company and gained a visa sponsorship – building a reputation not everyone he worked with was happy about. Things were looking good for Taeju, until the company he worked for went into financial bankruptcy. He lost his visa sponsorship and paycheck overnight, and with only two weeks left to legally stay in the country, was forced to return to Korea. He came to the U.S. to escape the class divisions and judgmental culture he faced as a non-graduate in his home country. Although the education system is very different here, he is grateful for the acceptance he’s been offered.
Taeju says the language barrier was of course difficult at the beginning, but said: “It was my own choice [coming here]. When in Rome… They’re not going to teach you in your own language – come on!”
He admitted school information translated into Korean would make things easier, but for Taeju the hardest things about living here are finances and other peoples’ assumptions. The stereotypical spoiled Asian student half-heartedly attending classes while parents fund a lavish lifestyle certainly does exist – we have all met a few. But for every two-car owner, there are 50 head-down, hard-working mature students like Taeju, working all hours and budgeting hard.
For Sarah Moundanga-Lucka, currently pursuing her Masters in Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, it is freeing being away from certain expectations put on women her age back home. She notices the conflict of having more freedom away from her own country (Republic of Congo), while missing the sense of belonging that comes with it.
“The hardest thing in Minnesota is making real connections,” Moundanga-Lucka said.
This state is particularly famous for its residents’ hard outer shells, and international students can be adept at breaking long-held assumptions. Are all Asians Chinese? Are all Africans conservative? Does everyone from the U.K. live in a city you’ve heard of?
Paula Furjan moved to Minnesota from Croatia five years ago.
“My friends in Croatia call me the American girl, but here I’m the Croatian girl. Everywhere I’m a foreigner,” she said.
Her story is not uncommon.
In February of 2017 some international students at MCTC realized they needed to find real connections and a network. Miki Wieczorek (Poland), Kate Pitt (UK), Sarah Moundanga-Lucka (RoC), Alex Harrison (US), Isabelle Carlson (Malaysia), Seonghyun Park (S Korea) and Tanisa Kang (Indonesia) didn’t expect massive changes in the school when they founded Cultures and Languages Community. They wanted to create a space for those who felt like “foreigners everywhere.” More and more people have studied abroad or traveled extensively, but satisfying curiosity doesn’t have to involve leaving your home state – intercultural communication can begin in classes and work places. Each week the group meets to discuss world news, festivals or different cultures. The mission is to support International Students while they pursue degrees in another country, mostly in a foreign language, but also to connect these and other students with each other and the resources available. They meet every Thursday 3-4:30 p.m. in T1250 and welcome anyone from anywhere.
Cultures and Languages Community are holding an exhibition of stories at the end of November. If you are an International Student and want to share your experiences, or a local pondering what ‘Home’ means, you are welcome to submit an entry to be displayed. These can be poetry, stories, painting, photos etc. and can be as short or detailed as you like (300 words max). Submissions should be emailed to CLC@go.minneapolis.edu , or posted to our Facebook page: @MCTCCLC. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 20.