On September 29th, new international students, returning international student panelists, and American students/staff met to discuss why some Americans do the things that they do. After a brief opportunity for guests to chat casually, three panelists led the discussion. First to speak was Fati Alhassan, a Master’s student from Ghana in Sustainable International Development in the Heller School. Among the helpful tips that Fati mentioned were that being “on time” really means at that time; it is okay to eat during class; and be prepared that people may invite themselves to your lunch table. The second panelist was Parth Krishna ’12, a Wien Scholar from India. Parth remarked that he wished he had established better time management skills before arriving at Brandeis. He has found his biggest challenge to be living in a dorm and learning how to network for jobs. He passed along the advice: “don’t try too hard to be an American: they respect individuality.” The third student to contribute to the discussion was Björn Gunnarsson, a PhD student in Computer Science from Iceland. Björn emphasized the importance of completing paperwork and forms carefully, and that there are a lot of them!
After the brief introductions, students asked questions of the panelists. One interesting topic that was discussed at length was how international students seem to make acquaintances easily with Americans, but find it difficult to have them become their friends. Björn remarked: “Americans are more friendly than they are friends,” and that it may take longer than some students are used to in order to establish solid friendships.
As an American, I found it fascinating to hear what types of questions international students had about American life, specifically life in Massachusetts. I am sure that all those who attended, domestic and international alike, learned something new out of this program.