Student Reflects on International Orientation

A lot of you at USF may have just finished your first week of school–a week of awkward ice breakers, getting lost and feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb. All the while the rest of the college is walking around smug in the knowledge they are not freshmen anymore. Well, here is an insight into the international students’ guide not only to USF but also, America!

We were ushered in at a highly uncivilized 8 a.m. on the Thursday before school started. I figured we weren’t ready to meet real live American students just yet. Hopefully the day would help me become hip and hang out with the cool kids. Things kicked off with a healthy dose of human bingo! Nothing like a forced meet and greet game to get everyone comfortable. I met a guy from Cyprus and we took solace in the fact that we were both horrified by this ordeal already. After a few more speeches we ended magnificently with “Go Dons!” and split up into groups. Things started getting deep now as we were given a sheet titled “Core Cultural Values and Culture Mapping.” In a room where English is most people’s second language, handing out sheets displaying monochromic and polychromic personality scales causes a slight stalemate. I could not wait for lunch.

After lunch one of the international team began with a talk about our visas. Within the first 15 minutes most of the 300 Chinese students around me were asleep. Could this be America’s unlikely weapon to eliminate the superpower that is China? Either way we were all split up again and entered the last session of the day. Finally, perhaps most importantly, we were taught a little bit about you, the American. Now, the American is a complicated being, from what I have gathered.

I read an introduction to American students prior to this orientation which told me, “Don’t be surprised if your U.S. acquaintances think that Koreans speak Chinese and Colombia is a city in Mexico. Maybe it’s because the U.S. is such a big place, but some of its residents have little knowledge of the rest of the world.” I wondered what I might learn here. The two main things I learned were that an American will say, “How’s it going?” and not really want to know, and lives in a “bubble.” The bubble surrounds the American with a perimeter of about 3 feet. This bubble must not be burst. If one encroaches upon this bubble the American will move immediately; this was kindly demonstrated by the international staff. We were then shown a short video on the American handshake. This video covered everything from the basics of the handshake, to the rather rare and special American man hug.

After that the day was wrapped up and we were officially ready to meet real live Americans. So don’t forget to give the next international student you meet a very American hand shake; we’ve been trained!

Patrick Gaynor is a junior creative writing and sports science major

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