International Students on Campus Bring Diverse Cultures to RMC

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By Tessa Fraser –

The Summit sat down with international students Thomas Hitzginger, Thomas Vandel, and Kasra Majmae Fasaei and asked them their thoughts on life, food, and college in the United States. Every fall, Rocky Mountain College is filled with new students that come from every corner of the nation and the world. Many bring their own experiences and cultures with them when they step on to campus, but perhaps some of the most interesting stories come from those who traveled to Montana from a different country.

Where you are from?

Thomas Hitzginger: Austria, the “Sound of Music” one, not the one with koala bears.

Thomas Vandel: I am from Grenoble, France. It is located in the Alps Mountains (Southeast of France).

Kasra Majmae Fasaei: Iran.

What you are studying?

TH: Sociology and Economics

TV: I am double majoring in Management and Small Business Entrepreneurship and double minoring in combining communication and accounting.

KF: Currently studying biology and planning to continue majoring in Medicine.

Why did you choose Rocky?

TH: For my exchange program I had to choose 10 colleges. Rocky was number 5 after New York, Florida, California and wherever else every European tourist thinks he has to go… Glad I got Rocky, though!

TV: I always wanted to travel in the United States, in order to speak fluent English. But I also wanted to study abroad, experiencing the American college lifestyle and do ski races. RMC could offer me both. I have joined the ski team in 2013 and hopefully will get a degree in 2017.

KF: I started my studying at MSUB for one semester and later on found that Rocky had a better study program for my major.

What was the hardest part of the transition to Rocky and the U.S?

TH: Realizing I am pretty much stranded here without a car. Getting to know how the little, everyday things work here was a bit tricky as well, not that they are that much different, but still. Language-wise I felt pretty well off most of time but one day it took me 5 attempts to order a cappuccino because of my different Austrian pronunciation of the word cappuccino.

TV: The hardest part was the transition from speaking French to English. My first day of school, I talked to an Irish girl and I couldn’t understand her at all. I thought that I would never understand her. Fortunately, it took me only 3 months to be able to understand and be understood well by everybody. But those 3 months were horrible.

KF: I found the change in my study program the biggest obstacle since I graduated from an international British high-school, with my IGCSE diploma.

What’s your favorite thing about the United States?

TH: Diversity in the people and the land. From high and snowy mountains to wide grasslands to dry desserts, from flat to hilly; the U.S. has it all! Plus I like to talk to the people because the different mindsets encourage me to reflect critically on my own mindset and behavior. I like that!

TV: My favorite thing in the US is eating really good hamburgers, barbecue wild wings, pork, beans…because American food is delicious!

KF: Learning new cultures and lifestyles and the friendly people of billings are my favorite because it makes it easier for me to be away from home and not be home sick.

What’s something you feel should be talked about more?

TH: Back home we have cultural sensitivity classes which could be in one way or another be beneficial for local students here too… Just so that the local students realize we (the exchange students) are not being weird the first couple of days here, we just need some time to adapt. But I don’t see that as a necessity, the people I have met so far were all open minded and nice!

KF: Cultural differences and a better understanding of internationals in the states is something that could be talked about more often to prevent misunderstanding between both parties.

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