CU Missions Week holds ‘Food for Thought’ international student panel discussion

CU Missions Week holds ‘Food for Thought’ international student panel discussion
Jhonbert Gonzalez of Puerto Ordaz, Boliviar, Veneuela, and Akari Matsumoto of Chiba, Japan, speak about their experiences as international students during a Food for Thought panel discussion. (Campbellsville University Photo by Daisy Rodriguez)

By Scarlett Birge, student news writer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – As part of Campbellsville University’s annual Missions Week, Joshua Detherage, English as a Second Language (ESL) and Master of Arts Teaching English to speakers of Other Languages (MA TESOL) instructor, arranged a ‘Food for Thought’ panel discussion to offer insight into international students’ lives.

The student panel spoke in the Badgett Academic Support Center (BASC) Banquet Hall Sept. 21 and included the following participants: Amarjargal Sandr of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Alexei Buchillet of Lyon, France; Akari Matsumoto of Chiba, Japan; and Jhonbert Gonzalez of Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar, Venezuela.

When asked what the hardest thing about moving to the United States was, the panelists gave several examples of obstacles they faced.

“When I first came here it was difficult to see people,” Sandr, a first semester ESL student, said. “It was so strange and very lonely.”

Sandr said adjusting from her hometown being crowded full of people to a smaller town like Campbellsville was a challenge. Buchillet, a second semester ESL student, said his experience was similar.

“My city is very big. It is very strange because, for me, Campbellsville is small,” Buchillet said.

Being so far away from home for the first time and missing holidays or other important traditional events was the most difficult part according to Gonzalez, a MA TESOL graduate student.

“I haven’t been able to celebrate with my family in six years,” Gonzalez said.

Matsumoto, a senior majoring in international studies, agreed that being away from family and friends was most difficult. She said her family initially did not want her to study abroad.

“The first time I told my dad I wanted to go to the U.S. he said no,” Matsumoto said.

Legal documentation and language barriers also caused issues for some of the panelists.

“The United States is so strict about having to get a visa. In America it is very difficult,” Sandr said.

“Before coming here, I didn’t speak English,” Buchillet said. “To speak to another person or understand class is sometimes difficult.”

While there are many challenges, the panel said the experience of studying abroad is worth it.

“It’s sad and lonely being away from family, but at the same time I can feel myself growing,” Matsumoto said.

The value of learning and discovering more about the world is a huge aspect of studying abroad and connecting with people from different backgrounds the students agreed.

“It expands your knowledge of the world so much more,” Gonzalez said. “It changes your perspective and makes you more understanding.”

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 12,500 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.