WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Jan. 14, 2019 — West Liberty University is a second home for many international students from all over the globe, seeking to earn high-quality education on the hilltop.
This spring, seven new international students moved to campus from Russia, Vietnam, Algeria, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
“Students choose WLU to obtain a four-year degree in one or more of the more than 70 majors including several students that are here on athletic scholarships, sharing their skills with our athletic teams. The rest of our international friends are here with various exchange programs for one or two semesters, to spice up and enrich their college experience in their home countries with an American college experience,” explained Mia Szabo, who serves as both the International Enrollment Services director and the International Student Advisor.
Different exchange programs are represented here at WLU every year.
“Students who come here are interested in learning about the American way of life and the cultural differences compared to their home countries,” explained Szabo.
To encourage, facilitate and fuel the cultural exchange between international and American students, the student-led International Club meets every Friday at 4 p.m. in the alumni room.
Even though it is called the International Club, each and every American student is always welcome to attend meetings and events to contribute to the cultural exchange.
“It’s a great chance to learn about foreign cultures along with a chance to share American culture with all international students involved in the club,” Szabo said.
The club meetings, however, are not the only opportunity to be part of the cultural exchange on campus. Events like international education month every November, culture fair or the popular March international food festival are traditional events on campus that provide more exchange opportunities.
When asked what their favorite thing was about being a part of the hilltop, here is what they said:
“I have just arrived but I really like the natural environment here in the area,” said Yamna Menel from Algeria.
Szabo answered the question based on what she observed during the last years.
“My favorite thing is the friendliness and the smile that people have on their faces.”
Megumi Maruta from Japan who is currently working on his master’s degree and added: “My favorite thing about WLU would be its unique environment that is WLU. I believe that it is unusual to find this kind of welcoming community where everyone feels safe and everyone is connected.”
Of course, living abroad is not always as fun and easy as it might sound, so what are some of the difficulties that our international students struggled with regarding culture or academic standards for example?
“Everybody has been nice and helpful here, so I have not really struggled with anything yet,” stated Menel.
One thing that Szabo noticed is that both Americans and internationals struggle with non-verbal communication clues, like eye contact, because that is something that is different between cultures.
“It was somewhat challenging for me to adapt to a new culture here because it is simply different from what I was used to, different food, different people, and different culture. However, once I started to know more about people and the culture WLU and Wheeling has to offer, I fell in love with this community!” said Maruta, who has been here since 2013.
No matter if a student just arrived or if one has been here for several years, it seems to me that everybody enjoys being on the hilltop and whether American or international, the cultural diversity at WLU is not only an asset for the future careers of our international students, but also for every American student and all members of faculty and staff.