Understanding Ourselves Through a Different Lense

Hatice Unsay is a student in the Binghamton-Turkey Dual Diploma Program, and Manran Sun and Tianchang Gao are in the Binghamton-Beijing International Studies University Dual Diploma Program. We interviewed these bright young ladies to hear about their experience on our Binghamton campus as well as in the United States as international students, and their advice for Binghamton students who are about to study abroad!

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Q. What are some things that you do for fun here that is different from back in your home country?

Hatice  Definitely taking road trips and visiting parks! I took a trip to West Coast and visited Yosemite and it was amazing. In Ankara where I come from, there not many forests and road trips are not that popular in Turkey.

Manran  I enjoyed seeing forests here! I had rarely seen forests back in Beijing which is a very dry place.

Tianchang  I love going to a gym. Not many Chinese local students enjoy in-door activities, so working out at a gym was something new and interesting to me.

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Q. What is the biggest challenge you had to face in the U.S. and/or on Binghamton campus?

Hatice  The American-style cuisines were a big challenge to me. There are just too many types of food but I found many of them are not culturally distinct (I may be wrong!). For example, there are Turkish-American, Chinese-American, Italian-American, etc. foods but not many American-American foods.

Manran  A language barrier has been the biggest challenge to me. I easily become nervous in class when asked to speak up and participate. The words are in my head but it takes me time to turn these words into complete sentences and actually get these sentences out of my mouth. By the time I speak, someone else in the class is already saying it…

Tianchang  As an English major, I get a lot homework that involves reading and that is very stressful. Just like Manran, the biggest challenge for me was (and still is) language barrier.

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Q. Has there been a situation in which you needed to clarify erroneous stereotypes or assumptions about your home culture? How did you handle that situation?

Hatice  I’ve met a lot of Americans, not necessarily colleges students, asking me if Turkish people still ride on camels or speak Arabic.

Manran  Some professors do not even ask me questions in class, assuming that I would not like being put on the spot. However, I would actually like them to ask me questions!

Q. What is the strangest or funniest experience you have had since you came here?

Hatice  Getting lost on road trips was actually a fun experience to me. People everywhere look and behave differently. Seeing the diversity of people was fun, too!

Manran  The bus system in Binghamton was (and still is) very strange… Why do buses have to run every 30 minutes or an hour? 😦

Tianchang  The comment people make, “Bless you”, when you sneeze was a strange thing to hear at first, but now I understand why they say it.

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Q. Do you ever get homesick? How do you cope with it?

Hatice  I don’t really get homesick and can still move on. I don’t think it’s good for my mental health if I just keep thinking about my home in Turkey. Turkey had a bad year last year, but Binghamton offered a lot of psychological support for Turkish students, so I felt was I was taken well care of and did not feel the need to be homesick.

Tianchang  Yes, I miss my parents, but I am really enjoying the time here at Binghamton. It took me 2 hours by subway to get home from my old school in Beijing anyway, so I am kind of used to it.

Q. Are your home culture’s holidays or festivals celebrated on campus? If not, how do you celebrate them on your own?

Hatice  Religious holidays and national holidays are celebrated by TUCA, a Turkish student association on campus. They celebrated the Turkish Republic holiday, too!

Manran and Tianchang  Yes, very much! We remember that the mid-autumn festival was celebrated on campus, and we enjoyed the food there.

Q. What is your favorite food that is special to your home country?

Hatice  Kebab!

Manran  Beijing roasted duck, anything veggies, and tabin.

Tianchang  I miss hot pot so much…

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Q. Any advice for prospective education abroad students?

Hatice  Stay strong, and try to get yourself immersed in the local culture as much as you can!

Manran  Try learning the language of the country you are going to before you go there.

Tianchang  Do not feel too stressed out. You will eventually get used to the new environment. It only gets better and better! Fear not the new challenge forthcoming!

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