The United States has been know to be called a “Melting Pot” or a “Salad Bowl,” a place where different cultures collide and diversity is cherished. A smaller scale of these qualities can be seen on a college campus.
For Bethel College, this can take the form of students from out of the state to students from out of the country. This year, Bethel is the home of about ten international students. This diversity gives students, both international and those at home, the chance to experience cultures, lifestyles, values and beliefs from interactions and experiences instead of through stories and textbooks.
Xi Cheng, freshman from China, came to the United States because of Bethel and chose to study here instead of her home country.
Nicole Eitzen, senior, is from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. She also moved here as a freshman to obtain a Bachelor’s degree, which she plans on receiving from Bethel.
These women left what they knew, to come to the unknown, in order to pursue a college degree. They left what they called home to come and be on Bethel’s campus.
“When you had a chance to experience new life, you got to do it. Because you never know when you are going to lose this chance,” Cheng said.
It is not hard to imagine that life is different here than it is in other countries.
“One difference between America and China, is that America has the drink refill,” Cheng said.
Imagine going into McDonald’s and not getting a drink refill. Most of us have the habit of topping off our drink when we get ready to leave a fast food restaurant. However, that is not the case in China.
Going along with drink refills, Lucas DuPriest, freshman from Gothenburg, Sweden, stated that one thing the United States has that Sweden doesn’t is the sixty-four ounce drink cups at gas stations.
According to Eitzen, in Mexico, expressions are vastly different than what they are here.
“I noticed that ways in which we express politeness in Mexico are different from those in the U.S.,” Eitzen said. “I had to learn to respect people’s individuality and privacy. I also had to tell myself that it was okay to openly discuss my concerns and opinions in all settings.”
DuPriest agreed, saying people and how they socialize is vastly different from Sweden.
“Here people are very friendly when you first meet them,” DuPriest said.
But the differences don’t stop there. Food is also very different and leaves some students missing common dishes from their home. DuPriest, for example, said he misses seafood.
Although the Americanized version of Mexican food commonly consists of tacos and burritos, Eitzen pointed out that food in her home country is different.
“I come from the southeast of Mexico and most of the food we get in Newton is from the Northern parts of the country. We do eat tacos in my state, but not burritos,” she said.
Eitzen said she misses her mother’s fried plantains the most. She would typically eat these with sweetened condensed milk or table cream and sugar.
Cheng said she misses “the real Chinese food and homemade food with all my dad’s love.”
As Thanksgiving draws closer, a holiday unique to the United States, some of our students are remembering some of their holiday traditions that the United States does not have.
Cheng gave the example of the Spring Festival that happens in China, commonly known as “The Chinese New Year.” Eitzen gave the example of Mexico’s posadas.
“During the Christmas holidays, neighborhoods host parties in the middle of the night to recreate the time when Joseph and Mary sought shelter before the birth of Jesus,” Eitzen said. “Half of the guests are outside of the building, carrying candles and singing to be let in while a separate group responds from the inside. The party begins when the two groups meet. There is food, music, hot drinks and a special seven-peak piñata.”
DuPriest said he misses the celebration of midsummer at the end of June in Sweden.
“We basically celebrate that the sun hardly ever sets and that it’s summer time which means people are off from work,” he said.
These students are more than willing to share their culture, values, and beliefs with you, all you have to do is ask. Who knows, maybe you would have something to share with them as well. Then that way, you will learn from each other.