Moravian from the Eyes of an International Student

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Moravian from the Eyes of an International Student

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Moravian College is home to dozens of international students, who come from France, China, South Africa, Tanzania, Ukraine, and many other countries.

However, what is it like living and studying in a new country? What is Bethlehem, PA, like to people who did not grow up here?

To answer these difficult questions, I spoke to Astrid Buquen, a psychology major who is part of Moravian’s class of 2021. She was born and raised in Garches, France (which she proudly says is only 20 minutes away from Paris). She studied in America for her junior and senior year of high school — in Arizona and Massachusetts, respectively — then came to college at Moravian.

“I knew that I wanted to study in America for college. I wanted to learn the language and the culture,” Buquen said.

Buquen enjoyed life in the United States and wanted to stay. She said that her friends from home thought she was really brave and were impressed when she did leave. Many of them had never studied abroad, let alone for all four years of college. But Buquen explained that studying abroad has become more popular among her friends, and now they are making their own ways abroad.

Buquen described some of the best and worst cultural things she has experienced abroad. “First of all, I love Pop-Tarts,” she revealed. “But things like the Mo Burger in the B&G is a little too much. It’s so much food for one person.” She did, however, recommend the Mac & Cheese Bites.

Besides food, she did have some very personal feelings about being an international student. “The people here are so friendly,” she told me. “Everyone says hi to everybody. At home, you don’t say hi to someone if you don’t go out to do something with them. We aren’t rude. It just isn’t done. Americans are such open and welcoming people, and I love that.”

However, all the friendliness has had its drawbacks. Buquen told me no matter where she goes, the first question people always ask her is about where she is from and why she has an accent. “If I tell someone I’m from France and I don’t sound very happy, I’m not trying to be rude. I’ve just told the story so many times before.” She tries her best to fit in, but the constant reminder from other people that she is different culturally makes her always feel isolated. “I always feel different,” she said.

Buquen also explained how the schooling systems in France and America are very different. “In France, you go to a distinct school for what you want to do. If you want to be a law student, you go to a law school. If you want to study political science, you go to a political science school. Here, you can learn a lot of different things in one place. You have more options and freedom, which can be very fun. I’ve never had a music class before I came to Moravian.”

She appreciates the freedom of the American liberal arts program, as well as the regimented French program. She likes how the French program is difficult and forces you to work hard at all times, but also enjoys how much more helpful the American system is for students. “I wish there could be a mix of both the schools. Both are really helpful, but they’re very different.”

We then moved on to more difficult questions, such as her opinions on the current political situation in the United States and if she ever experienced something similar in France. She said that before the election of their last president, there was a very divided government in France, but now they are working to reconcile and are much better at working together. But she agreed that here, politics are much more aggressive. “Both parties have some good ideas,” she stated, “but you can’t agree with all of them. I think everyone should be welcome in this country, but I can understand other arguments from the opposing side. It’s difficult because there seems to be no right or wrong answers in politics.”

Although there are political differences between America and France, Buquen has been able to have an enriching experience studying abroad. “I would definitely study abroad more in the future. I would love to go to England and California,” said Buquen. But first, she wants to go home for a while. However, she’s looking forward to bringing some Americana home with her, namely a college diploma and the tradition of prom.

As one last question, I asked her what the hardest thing about studying abroad is. Buquen said, “There are a lot of high expectations. Everyone in France thinks of picturesque California and New York City when I say I’m studying in America. In reverse, people here see only the iconic Paris when I say I live in France. But France and America have all the same houses and pollution and trash that the other country has. Also, there are many more places to visit than just the countries’ most iconic cities. People don’t realize that there are so many other places to go in between. These big countries are homes for many people, and I wish that they would see that.”