NORMAL, Ill. – Going to lunch with a bunch of friends, talking in the lounge while eating crackers and cheese, walking in the beautiful squad, swapping stories at the International Friendship Family's house, joking with the roommate before bed, screaming “Go Redbird”, and recently, seeing the snow, scarves and gloves will remain only in their memory.
They have packed, partied and hugged goodbye. Some will be leaving with the grief of missing good friends they have met in this land while others are joyful to reunite with their family and friends.
December simply ends the semester for some but for many exchange students, it marks the end of their time in the U.S.
“Time flies while you are having fun,” said Wen Hu, an exchange student from China. “We have flown thousands of miles from our homes, and that we have to speak, read, write and almost think all 24 hours of the day in English had already come to an end.”
Stephanie Gonzalez, International Student and Scholar Advisor, said exchange students have made the campus livelier. “These exchange students have inspired and motivated our U.S. students to set the bar for global understanding even higher. Meanwhile, we have tried our best to provide those exchange students with the same experience from ISU,” she said.
Mark Whitley, a resident on Manchester Hall’s International Floor, also agreed with Gonzalez. “I have learned a lot from the exchange students coming each semester,” he said, “and the only bad part I can think of is that I always feel depressed at the end of each semester since I have to say goodbye to them every time.”
Meanwhile, Song Yi Lee, another exchange student from South Korea, also expresses her sadness when she has to leave.
“I enjoy every second in ISU,” said Lee. “I haven’t had enough of ISU and America yet. Specially, I just cannot stop missing my crazy friends and my beloved host family here.”
Most of ISU’s exchange students have a chance to experience home away from home because their host family. Therefore, it must be a heartbreaking moment for exchange students and their host family once they have to say goodbye, probably forever.
“Song Yi is like my very own daughter,” said Paula Crowley, Lee’s host mother. “She has brought a lot of good memory to our family, and we will surely remember her forever.”
Studying in America has surely become a life changing experience for most of the exchange students.
"My study abroad experience taught me a lot, both in and outside of the classroom," Tatiana Regina Montanari, an exchange student from Brazil, explained. "It strengthened my academic platform, gave me experience with intercultural relations, taught me much about American culture and made me a more independent person. I encourage all students to go and study abroad! It will be the experience of a lifetime and will change the way you see the world and your place in it."
Culture shock has always been the main barrier for international students coming to a different country. Nevertheless, most exchange students often neglect that same issue when returning back to their home country.
“It might sound weird to have culture shock in your own country. However, some students may have already familiarized themselves with the condition here that when they go back they will have a hard time adjusting to the environment of their home country,” said Gonzalez.
Most students will go back using the knowledge and experience they gained in America to their professional life whereas some still claim they need more experience from this country.
“My life in the U.S. has not ended yet,” Montanari added. “You will see this face in ISU in the next few years as a graduate student I promise.”
In Fall 2010, ISU hosted 56 exchange students from 24 different countries, 29 of whom will be leaving the campus next week. In Spring 2011, 18 more will be coming to join the ISU family.