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Lariat Letters: International gratitude

Nov. 18, 2010

This week, Baylor University celebrates its International Education Week. Consequently, the Center for International Education has scheduled several events throughout the week such as the study abroad information table in the SUB. I would like to take this opportunity to share my perspective on studying in the U.S. As a child, I remember being introduced to the United States via my family television set that showed a few international channels such as the Cable News Networks. Even though I did not understand an English word pronounced by the journalists, I was fascinated by their strange accent and the different pictures I watched. Impressed by the cultural and racial diversity of the U.S., I dreamed of visiting this complex and powerful country. Fast forward several years later. I am now studying in the U.S. I realized my dream. And I can safely say that the benefits of studying in the United States have exceeded my expectations.

Not only do I now claim to be fluent in English, my second language, but I have developed friendships that will last a lifetime. These friends are a mix of international and domestic students with whom I often share common interests. Sometimes our cultural, social and racial differences are actually the common factors of some of the friendships I developed.

Instinctively, my friends and I bonded because we want to know more about each other cultures and customs. Before we knew it, we could not have enough of each other.

Furthermore, I have been impressed by the warmth and the support I received from strangers, faculty, staff and church members. Unfortunately, the warmth and support are not always found among my American peers.

I noticed that most domestic students who express an interest for international students are generally those who have been somewhat exposed to the rest of the world through trips abroad or those who had formally developed friendships with international students. These domestic students are able to relate with the struggles experienced by international students.

Besides developing strong relationships, studying in the U.S. has also offered me the honor of being an unofficial ambassador for Cameroon, my home country, and at some extent, Africa.

I was initially frustrated by some of the questions about Cameroon and Africa but then I realized the crucial role I could play in providing people with the most objective views on Africa. For example, the international media has desensitized the world about Africa's poverty with an excessive number of pictures of hungry African children. Furthermore, positive changes and events such as the World Cup 2010 that took place in South Africa this summer are given insignificant if no coverage in the international news. Therefore, people are unaware of the progress made by some developing nations. The internationalization of education is a real phenomenon and Baylor is definitely part of it with students from all 50 United States and more than 70 countries who call Baylor home.

Happy International Education Week to the Baylor community.

Jessica Foumena
Journalism graduate student