By Glenn McGlothlin, Contributing Writer
Asbury’s worldwide influence draws students from many different countries outside of the United States. According to Jarred Miller, the international enrollment specialist at Asbury, 5.5 percent of the student body is from outside the country. The 12 new freshmen in the Merciful Class are the most since 2008.
For many of these students, coming to Asbury is their first extended stay in America, and for others, going to college at Asbury is not their first experience in America, but still an eye opening one when coming from a foreign country. This is especially important when realizing how formative the college years are in a persons’ mental, social and spiritual development.
Junior Krista Clements grew up in Mumbai, India as a child of a pastor. Living in India, she learned the local language, but she also learned English in her house. Her family, though being native of India, was very aware of American culture. Her father had lived in America during his seminary years before returning to India to pastor and lead Christians there.
When she became a student at Asbury, she experienced and noticed some changes and differences in American culture that had not appeared in Indian culture. One of the first things that Clements noticed was the food. She says Indian food is much more diverse and spicy. Even popular pizza and chicken restaurants in America have adjusted their menus for the Indian food palate. Pizzas are given the works with spices and flavors that Americans would cringe at if they tasted them. Even the chicken has been given a makeover and brought up to Indian flavor standards. She states that most American food choices are bland and lack the flavor that she is used to in India.
Another comparison that Clements notices between India and America is the Christian culture. In India, religion and culture are very closely intertwined, making it difficult for Indians to convert to Christianity and still be accepted in the local culture. She mentions the challenges that new Christians face when they convert. Frequently, they are disowned and thrown out of the house and even the family.
Thus, the Christian community in India is very supportive of new believers. Clement’s family would regularly open their home for fellowship to encourage local Christians. She notices how there is not nearly as much at stake in the American church. Indians are sometimes risking their lives when they become Christians, while in America; Clements has noticed a more easy-going lifestyle.
Freshman Jessica Park also grew up overseas in Asia. She has lived in South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. She says that coming to Asbury was a result of God’s vision for her life to be a music teacher to missionary kids in her home country of Thailand.
One major observation she has made of America is the education system. In Asia, there is heavy pressure placed on students to perform highly in school. Parents and teachers alike urge students of all ages to excel, and that pressure is felt. Coming to America, Park has not seen that push as much. The differences are indeed great, and she finds it difficult to understand. How can Americans place so little stress on excelling in education? Park does enjoy, however, the freedom that she has with her studies at Asbury. She can work at her own pace and not always have a superior always pushing her forward.
Dominic D’Ettorre is a sophomore business major who has lived for four years in Slovakia and three years in Ukraine. Though born in the United States, the seven years that he spent in Eastern Europe exposed him to cultures that are vastly different from any American culture he had experienced before. While living in Ukraine, D’Ettorre attended an international school.
While attending the school, he began to interact with people from all over the world, and it was there that he was prepared for reentry into the American culture. D’Ettorre states that he essentially experienced reverse culture shock. Returning to the United States after seven years away, he was struck by the strong materialism that American’s practice.
Where he was overseas, not everyone owned a vehicle. People walked to their destinations or took public transportation. Observing American culture again has made him notice that the vast majority of Americans own a personal vehicle. And as a result, they have a slower walking speed. D’Ettorre notices how materialism has been so deeply engrained in American culture that stress and worry manifest themselves as a result. American’s always want the best and newest they can get their hands on. Having lived overseas for seven years, D’Ettorre has seen a side of American culture that is not its finest, but one that still exists.
Asbury’s increasing efforts to enroll students from diverse backgrounds and a wide selection of countries is creating a more diverse student body. The insights and observations that these students from overseas bring to us are invaluable as we live in a constantl