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A Look Across the World

June 4, 2015

Words By Ellie Moslander

Photos by Brian Blakely and Devin Dronett

As Louisiana Tech students go from classes day after day, getting caught up in the chaos that is school, many may overlook the diverse cultural opportunities the university offers. Students from around the world attend colleges and universities, and they all have their own unique perspectives and come from different cultures. There are so many people, countries and cultures to learn about. There are currently 586 international students at Tech, and these students have made the decision to uproot their lives and travel across the globe to study in the United States. These students provide a glimpse of their culture through traditions, food and fashion.

Shashank Shrestha, Nepal

A traditional costume called “Daura Suruwa” for men. Shrestha’s Daura Suruwa is only worn for special occasions such as weddings and festivals. It is hand stitched. Nepalese wear casual clothes on a regular basis. – Photo by Devin Dronett

A traditional costume called “Daura Suruwa” for men. Shrestha’s Daura Suruwa is only worn for special occasions such as weddings and festivals. It is hand stitched. Nepalese wear casual clothes on a regular basis. – Photo by Devin Dronett

Shashank Shrestha is from Nepal and decided to attend school in the United States for many reasons.  He said this experience has helped him grow as a person.

“Here, I’ve done so much and learned so much,” said Shrestha, a senior economics major. “I feel like I became a man or something, from a boy transformed to a man, doing everything by myself.”

He said students who come from around the world face challenges other students may not be able to understand. Shrestha’s home is miles across the Pacific and he, along with other international students, have left their comfort zones and families in order to attend school.

“I went home this past Thanksgiving, but I had not been home for three and a half years,” he said. “It was a sudden plan to go, and it was crazy; my mom didn’t even recognize me, that’s how crazy it got. Because she was not expecting me, it was a surprise. It felt really good.”

Shrestha said the culture of Nepal is full of tradition and focuses on respecting the elders.

While attending school, Shrestha has been heavily involved in campus activities and believes this is an important aspect of a college education. He said he has always tried to be the bridge between international and local students.

In order to help students learn more about the world, Shrestha played a part in installing the world map in the back of Tolliver while he was serving as president of the International Student Association.

“I just wanted people to see it and learn,” he said. “When international students look at it, it’s like they’re home. But that map is not just for internationals. It’s especially made for Americans, so they can look at it and they know how big the world is and how much opportunity they have.”

Shrestha said he hopes students will interact with each other more and learn about each others’ culture.

“I want them to go out and see the world,” he said. “Because there’s so much opportunity and so much culture you can learn. It’s crazy.”

Sonoko Shibuya, Japan

A Yukata is a casual version of a Kimono made from cotton cloth preferred to be wore during the summer season. Today, Yukata are most often worn by women, and on special occasions such as fireworks festivals. The word “kimono” literally means a “thing to wear.” Kimonos are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimonos are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial) and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. – Photo by Devin Dronett

A Yukata is a casual version of a Kimono made from cotton cloth preferred to be wore during the summer season. Today, Yukata are most often worn by women, and on special occasions such as fireworks festivals. The word “kimono” literally means a “thing to wear.” Kimonos are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimonos are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial) and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. – Photo by Devin Dronett

Sonoko Shibuya is from Tokoyo, Japan, and she said she wanted to see the world and expand her worldview by coming to college in the United States.  She also said she came here because she believed she would receive the best education and learn English in the process.

“In Japan, we hear so many good things about the United States,” said Shibuya, a sophomore architecture major.  “English is an international language, so it’s good to be able to use English, too. I came mostly for the education because they have the best college education in America, and you have more options and more freedom to choose what you want to be.”

She was particularly interested in Louisiana Tech because of its Tier One academic ranking and she felt the environment was safe and embracing.

Coming to Tech was a shock to Shibuya at first, not only because of the culture, but mainly because she transitioned from the large city of Tokyo to Ruston.

“Like every metropolitan city, I am used to high rise buildings, a lot of noise, people and traffic,” she said. “Ruston was a culture shock, (but a good) kind of shock. It’s healthy to live here.”

Shibuya said the experience of being an international student has involved many factors. She said she first learned to drive when she moved here, as she was used to the public transportation back home.

“Living here helped embrace diversity and grow personally and academically,” Shibuya said. “I have learned how to adapt to a different society and how to communicate more effectively.”

She has many things she is proud of about her culture, but Shibuya said she especially appreciates the friendliness of her culture.

“The Japanese are very friendly in a Japanese way, with the emphasis on the Japanese ideal of proneness,” she said. “In their social interactions, Japanese are very structured. Bowing when saying hello and thank you is the norm, as is giving and receiving items and gifts with both hands.”

One thing which has stood out to her when it comes to American culture versus Japanese is cleaning up when in public.

“When Japanese people leave a restaurant, movie theater, ball park, they clean up after themselves,” Shibuya said. “They don’t leave a mess and expect others to clean up after them.”

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Ndiaye’s outfit is a traditional dress usually worn for special occasions or on Fridays because in Senegal Friday is a day where everyone wears traditional clothes. It is worn for ceremonies, celebrations, funerals, baptisms, weddings or sometimes just national holidays. But every other day people wear casual clothes. – Photo by Brian Blakely

Khady Ndiaye, Senegal

Khady Ndiaye from Senegal, first came to the United States to attend school in New Orleans for aviation management and then transferred to Tech. She said leaving her home to go so far away was one of the hardest things she has had to do.

“Being away from home for the first time, not having my family around was kind of hard,” said Ndiaye, a graduate student in business administration. “Some nights I would just go to bed and cry and stuff.”

She said she has adjusted, but still misses home. She said the atmosphere of Ruston was also very different and took time to adjust.

“It was kind of like a shock, because Ruston was so small (in comparison) to the cities I have been to,” Ndiaye said. “And I wasn’t expecting it to be this small; I had a hard time getting around because I wasn’t driving or anything, and the fact that there was no public transportation and stuff like that kind of made it really hard.”

After being here for a while, she said she has adjusted to living in Ruston and going to school on the quarter system. The Internet has made it easy for Ndiaye to see her family; they talk every day if they can. Her mom travels to see her, and Ndiaye goes home during the summers, which has also helped her transition.

“Going and changing to a whole new thing that’s like totally different than what you’re used to was very challenging,” she said. “And now I’ve gotten so used to it that when I go home I’ve kind of gotten to where I love being around people, but I like to be alone. Because I’m so used to being alone here. So it’s kind of affecting me when I go home.”

Ndiaye said a difference she has noticed between her culture and American culture is how close everyone in her home country is.

“One thing I get about home that is totally different from here is that back home everybody lives like family,” she said. “Even your neighbor’s are like part of the family; I can go to my neighbor’s house all the time when I want to without having to tell them.”

Ndiaye said there are a lot of misconceptions about her culture and country, such as people not understanding that Senegal is in Africa.

“A lot of people don’t know a lot about us. There’s a lot of stereotypes about us, so you have to overcome those. Now that I am used to it, it (does not) bother me a lot when people ask me sometimes,” she said.

Deepthi Yadav Chappidi, India

Chappidi is wearing a Kuchipudi dance costume.  It consists of a blouse with a Saree, which is made out of Kanchipuram Silk. The makeup she is wearing includes:   Altha – a red paint on the hands and feet, and Sindhur Kumkum – eyeliner and eye shadow. The jewelry is studded with rhinestones and adds a “sparkling effect” to the dress as the dancer moves. The different pieces of jewelry all have a different meaning. This dress is usually used for performing the classical dance form Kuchipudi. –Photo by Devin Dronett

Chappidi is wearing a Kuchipudi dance costume.
It consists of a blouse with a Saree, which is made out of Kanchipuram Silk. The makeup she is wearing includes:
Altha – a red paint on the hands and feet, and Sindhur Kumkum – eyeliner and eye shadow. The jewelry is studded with rhinestones and adds a “sparkling effect” to the dress as the dancer moves. The different pieces of jewelry all have a different meaning. This dress is usually used for performing the classical dance form Kuchipudi. –Photo by Devin Dronett

Deepthi Yadav Chappidi is from Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh, India, and came to Louisiana Tech to pursue her master’s in molecular science and nanotechnology. She said she chose to do so after learning about the nanotechnology major from her cousin who also attended Tech.

“I belong to a background of pharmacy and wanted to research on drug delivery systems,” Chappidi said. “I found that (the) theoretical knowledge I got from studying (my) bachelors is not sufficient and also (wanted) to know about the advances in the field of drug delivery and design.”

She said coming to the States was a difficult transition, as she had to leave her family and friends behind.  Although this was hard, she said she has learned many things about the world.

“There are a lot of traditional, cultural and behavioral differences when compared with my country, but trying something new is always interesting,” Chappidi said.

The adjustment took time for Chappidi, but once she was able to meet more people and get connected, she said she was fine.

“Being an international student I never felt like I was a left out person because of the events and other stuff conducted by the International Student Office and other student organizations at the university,” she said.

As coming to America has been an experience for Chappidi, she said she has learned many things about the culture and she has also learned there are things Americans may not know about her culture.

“There are some superstitions which Americans may not know like not wearing a new dress on Saturday, neither giving or accepting anything with a left hand and not cleaning the house at night time,” she said.

Chappidi said India is a land of diversity, because it has many different religions, cultures, races and languages.

“Though it has all this diversity, India is known for unity by being a secular and republic democratic nation,” she said.

Chappidi said some things which reflect the culture of her country is the belief in the worship of idols in India and the population loves celebrating many festivals. She said although there are many things she loves about her culture, her favorite thing about Indian culture is the festivals they host and the tolerance it has for religion.

“No matter which religion we belong to, we Indians celebrate the festivals of different religions without any differences and discrimination,” Chappidi said.

Blanca Soto, Mexico

Torres’ outfit is a Mexican folkloric dress, a traditional gown worn for special occasions such as weddings and events like horse riding and dancing. – Photo

Torres’ outfit is a Mexican folkloric dress, a traditional gown worn for special occasions such as weddings and events like horse riding and dancing. – Photo by Brian

Blanca Soto Torres was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. when she was 5 years old. She said moving was hard at first, especially because of the language barrier, but eventually she got the hang of it.

“At first, it was something new. We didn’t know anything,” said Torres, a freshman cyber engineering major. “Everybody around you would speak and you were there wanting to say something, but you couldn’t join in; you would feel left out.”

She said because her parents did not speak English she and her sisters had to take on many responsibilities others may have not had to at such a young age.

“I believe that the fact that my mom did not speak English helped us a lot because at home we were not allowed to speak English,” Torres said. “She decided she wanted us to be fluently bilingual.”

She said it has been beneficial for her to have a multicultural background.

“I’ve been in situations where I guess I get overlooked as Mexican and there’s been a lot of racist situations I jump in, because they think I do not know Spanish and talk bad about other Hispanics,” Torres said. “And I jump in and say no. I love that because I am the hero for a little bit.”

Torres said having this amount of diversity on campus provides all students with the opportunity to learn about different cultures and have global connections. She is proud of her culture and wants the cultures to grow together and help one another, which she has done.

“I can say we’re really bicultural, thanks to our parents because they really taught us,” Torres said. “I guess we taught ourselves the American culture, but they taught us not to forget where we came from.”

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