Landing in the US: a journey of dreams and difficulties

By Zhihong Li & Zimo Zhou

A foreign language, different culture and a different skin color – coming to the United States is a journey, which immerses international students in a strange yet exciting time of their lives.

Stepping in the United States, they break ground to realize their dreams on a difficulty-laden path.

Here, three students studying in different Boston universities share their perspectives, experiences and challenges.

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Musical Dream Catcher

Turkey native Esin Ozlem Aydingoz is a sophomore at Berklee College of Music. As a high school student, if there was one thing she dreamt about, it was studying at Berklee.

The summer of 2010, finally brought her a step closer to her dream. Aydingoz participated in a program at Berklee. Upon returning back to Turkey, her memories of visiting Berklee translated into a song she wrote, “I need to go back now.”

Esin Ozelm Aydingoz studies film scoring, contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music.

Esin Ozlem Aydingoz studies film scoring, contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music.

“I wanted to come back so much! Even for a day, for a minute or for a moment,” she said.

She is now studying film scoring, contemporary writing and production. Aydngoz, who learned to play piano as a four year old, can now write songs in English and Turkish. Her passion for music made her learn new instruments and different style of music, she said.

 “I used to play some classical music, and now I’m trying to learn about Jazz,” she said.

For Aydingoz, the many opportunities to meet new people at school and social networks, is not so much like her experience back home.

“There are not many international students in Turkey, if any, maybe five to ten international students per school,” she said. “But here, I have opportunities to learn from everyone from everywhere.”

Future Theatre Educator

Not many chose to leave home to pursue their dreams, which are a far cry from the popular academic programs in their country. It was the same choice, Makiko Shibuya made.

Shibuya is a first year graduate student of theater education at Emerson College. As an Asian, she said she was not familiar with American dramas, music and artists.

Makiko Shibuya wants be a theatre educator after she graduates.

Makiko Shibuya wants be a theatre educator after she graduates.

“I go to almost every theatre in Boston and watch shows, as many as possible. Then I combined what I’ve learned into my own practice. ” she said.

Exposing herself to the theater scene in Boston has helped her learn the art of attracting audience, and understanding their interests. In her class performance, Shibuya hopes to teach English through body language and other elements.

“I have had many ideas to use visual elements in helping my future Japanese students express themselves in English.”

Shibuya’s interest in connecting to people doesn’t limit to theater. She also works as the president of International Graduate Students Organization.

As the president, Shibuya has many plans to connect diverse cultures from different countries.

She said, she is planning three main communication activities this semester to attract more native and international students to share their cultures and experiences.

Multicultural Identity

Among the large population of international students, some are seen coping with multiple cultural backgrounds.

Peter Wang, a Ph.D. student studying Economics at Boston University, identifies himself as a Chinese Canadian in the United States.

Peter Wang is plays guitar with COM band at the church he attends.

Peter Wang is plays guitar with COM band at the church he attends.

Wang was born in China and immigrated to Canada with his father when he was 14. He spent his high school and college life in Canada, and applied to Boston University for his Ph.D.

Recalling the first year in Canada, Wang said that language barrier was the biggest obstacle he faced.

“It took a very long time, almost half a year, for me to get familiar with the language,” Wang said. “It’s frustrating when people don’t understand you, even when you are just playing the game of basketball.”

The cultural similarities between Canada and the U.S. helped him shorten the adaption period after he came to Boston.

In his spare time, Peter goes to a local church, where many Chinese students meet weekly as well.

The student fellowship in the church every Friday offers Chinese students a chance to communicate in their mother language.

“Sharing the food definitely gives students the feeling of going back home, and we can interact with people from the same cultural background,” Wang said.

Compared to other international students, Wang feels more local than most of them. But among all Americans, Peter is a Canadian with Chinese background.

“When people ask me where I’m from, I would say that I was born in China, and I’m raised half in China, half in Canada,” Peter said. “These two backgrounds do not conflict with each other.”

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