When entering college, it is likely that one will meet a myriad of people from all over North Carolina and even the United States. However, most people don’t notice that UNC-Greensboro also has a diverse group of students that have come to the university through the foreign exchange program.
Starting a new school year is an already exciting yet scary prospect, but imagine beginning the school year in a completely new country where the spoken language is unfamiliar to you.
For Martina Di Donato, an exchange student from Italy, this is one of her new realities. Before Donato even started researching about studying abroad, she knew she wanted to go outside of Europe. In Italy, Donato attended LIUC — Universita Carlo Cattaneo, a university which has 14 study-abroad partnerships with institutions around the world. Among her choices, UNCG happened to be the one option in the United States. Donato, a business major, did some research and heard good things about UNCG’s Bryan School of Business, and knew, without a doubt, that she wanted to start her journey here.
When she initially arrived at UNCG there was a one-week orientation with all of the international students. At the orientation, they participated in different icebreaker activities, and were introduced to the UNCG campus. Along with being educated about the campus policies and life in Greensboro, they were also entertained with different activities that helped facilitate mingling.
Unlike many of the international students, Donato decided not to stay in the International house, because the common bathrooms were simply not appealing to her. Instead, she decided to stay in one of the quad dorms where she only has to share a bathroom with two other people. Although Donato is not living with the other international students, she still feels like she is a part of the community. In Italy, she felt alienated while living off campus.
Starting classes, she thought the schoolwork would be much easier than it was back home at LIUC University, but to her surprise, it was the complete opposite. At LIUC they only had two exams per semester, a midterm and a final — that was the only way in which they were graded. For her, having only two exams per semester came easier than having to study for an exam every month.
At UNCG, there are assignments due every week and many professors even add participation to the grade. “That was something I was not used to,” she exclaimed. When it comes to professors, she deemed many to be incredible; however, due to the language barrier, she sometimes finds it hard to understand them, especially when they are speaking quickly. Overall, Donato explained that she has been enjoying her classes, despite all of the assignments.
Communicating has been the biggest challenge for her thus far, not only academically but also when it comes to making American friends.
“I can communicate my ideas, but I know I’m not speaking properly,” Donato said. That prevents her from being friends with American students because she fears that they won’t understand her.
The fact that American students are not as eager to meet others as she originally believed comes as a shock to her, “No one in my classes talk to me,” she said.
A trick Donato has discovered in order to convince Americans to talk to her is pointing out where she’s from. “When I tell them where I’m from they are interested and want to know more about the Italian culture,” she explained.
One major difference she sees between American culture and Italian culture is that in Italy what a person wears and how they appear is really important. She explaiend that if students came to class in sportswear they would get kicked out without hesitation.
From her stay here so far, Donato most enjoys having so many different activities to do, especially partying. “Back home there were no extra activities to do; students just went to class then home, but here, there are more activities to do than I can count,” Donato said. She is currently on the swim team and has found everyone to be exceptionally inviting; she believes that being involved in activities is a great way to meet people.
Throughout Donato’s stay at UNCG so far, she has observed that there is a lot of school pride, which she particularly enjoys. She hopes to visit different cities in North Carolina during her stay in America; in fact, a trip to Myrtle Beach with a group of her international friends is already in the works.
Altogether, she said that she has enjoyed the cultural experience of staying at an American college campus.
Categories: Features, Human Interest
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