International students adapt though cultural differences prove a challenge


This fall, seventeen international students came to Wilson College. They hailed from South Korea, Columbia, France, Armenia, Pakistan, Ghana and Thailand.

For most of them, this is their first time living in America. I interviewed some international students regarding cultural differences between their culture and American culture. I learned that many have experienced embarrassing situations because of these cultural differences.

One student, Jisun Koo, explained, “In Korea, men are not permitted to enter the girls’ dormitory—especially a girl’s room.” Koo, a South Korean native, currently lives in Disert Hall.

Seunghee Cho, who is also from South Korea and resides in Disert, said, “A few days ago, after I took a shower, I only wore a bathrobe. I met a guy in the hallway just as I went to my room.”

For Koo, Cho and most of the Korean girls, having guys in the residence halls makes them feel uncomfortable.

Cultural differences affect international students in other ways, too.

“In France, we don’t have an integration week like Sarah Wilson Week,” said Camille Gippa from France, a teacher’s assistant in Wilson’s foreign language department.

Gippa says that even small things like what time dinner is served is influenced by culture.

“We usually have dinner at 7:00 to 9:00 in France,” said Gippa. The dining hall at Wilson serves dinner from 4:45pm-6:45pm and for some international students, this is too early.

Other differences in culture are associated with customs such as formal introductions and activities that include both men and women.

“We do not shake hands if we meet a person of the opposite sex when we meet formally for the first time,” said Carol Mukhtar from Pakistan. “In some very conservative families, girls are not allowed to talk to their male relatives. These girls always cover their heads when they meet their brothers and fathers. Also, girls do not dance in front of boys. They do not talk aloud.”

Although there are cultural differences, the international students at Wilson still try to adjust to American life. This adjustment can be made easier with a little kindness and understanding from the rest of the Wilson community.

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