The gift of knowledge to international students

BU decided to waste two hours of my day on my very first official holiday in the States. Well, technically, it wasn’t ‘on’ the holiday per se, but it was the day after Labor Day, and it counts just as much.
For two hours in the middle of the day, when I could have spent my time wisely and productively immersed in the new world of Netflix in the comforts of my room, all the graduate international students at BU (minus the lucky bastards who were smart enough to know this was going to be a waste of their time and didn’t come) were sentenced to the most amazingly stupid orientation session ever.
It is one thing to help the ‘poor, homesick, lost foreign students’ and another to make them think they come from a whole other planet unfortunately yet untouched by the American civilization. Don’t get me wrong, being homesick and experiencing culture shock in a country far from home are very real issues that one goes through at some point or the other, and something many need help to cope with. But I do wonder, at a graduate level, how helpful it is to tell us that ‘all cultures are different’, ‘what you see is only the tip of the iceberg, and below that, there is an array of differences’, ‘we have different foods’, and so on. Oh my, I had no idea. I thought that we just looked different and that was it. I had no idea that each country had its own culture and customs. I feel so much more enlightened.
The ISSO (International Students and Scholars Office) was also kind and considerate enough to show us the ropes of how to navigate the tumultuous and risky waters of an ‘all-American classroom’. Oh behold dear foreigners, if carrying out a tune or ringing your personal bell is the way that is done in your respective countries to express an opinion in class, you’d better give up that habit soon, because, in America, you raise your hand to do so. How boring. Also, in case you were wondering a syllabus was some kind of mode of transportation, let me stop you and correct your right there. It is not. Finally, you’re never going to guess what the exam we take in the middle of the term consists of: a mid-term. Oh sweet nectar that is knowledge!
Yes, in case you’re having this face, just like I did yesterday,



this is what the orientation taught us, for real.

Sure, there was helpful information, such as maintaining your legal status in the States, or knowing about health insurance, but after an hour and a half of blabber and simply dumb and useless information, it is really hard to absorb the useful one with enthusiasm and gratitude. Moreover, we had gone through this in the GSAS PhD Orientation, so really, nothing new.
I absolutely love being here at BU, and I’m not saying that international students don’t need help, even if they are at a graduate level. But how helpful is the information above going to be, really? I’m not sure that this is appropriate even for undergraduate students. I wish they could have given some more thought, some more real thought into it, instead of treating us like some savages who don’t know how to cope with life as students, wherever that may be.
Plus, if they wanted us to feel welcome (or maybe they didn’t, considering this orientation), they could have at least given us food. Food is an international language for ‘welcome’. Or maybe that is not how it is done in the States. Maybe giving free food to poor graduate students is considered offensive. What do I know, I may only be looking at the tip of the iceberg. Shame on me.



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