An Open Letter to the SDSU Community

Dear SDSU students and staff,

I was about to title this article “Why the SDSU Campus is not internationalized at all,” but I thought that might be too much, considered presumptuous and make it sound like I’m unhappy with my experience here — and it is really not what I want to express here.

As a quick reminder, I am a French exchange student, here for a semester in a MBA graduate program.

Just so you know, when I got here, I promised myself not to talk any French, to avoid French people as much as possible and to intend to hang out as much as possible with Americans.

I am not bragging that I’m the cream of the crop here, but I thought that this “technique” would allow me to have a more authentic experience.

Don’t misunderstand me: I still love my country, I still miss it. And sometimes, I am dying to meet up with a French student so I can talk in French for hours about what people here could not understand. But I’m not doing it, because this is not my goal here.

So, that’s what I do.

Yet, I’m meeting international students all the time.

All my classes are composed of at least 10 percent with international student. One of my classes is almost half French, too. So it’s pretty hard to avoid them, but that’s okay. It made me understand some interesting things.

First of all, I noticed that Americans are water, and International Student are oil.

We are together all the time, but we do not mix up very well.

International students at SDSU are staying together, whether they’re from the same country or not. And Americans carefully remain in their corner.

Also, I’ve been offered a lot of activities, especially by the International Student Center. For instance, International Coffee Hour on Fridays, where we can share our culture with our compatriots and other exchange students. But also a lot of fairs, a lot of talk and meetings …

Well, thank you for that.

But, you know what? It doesn’t feel good to be invited to such events  At least, on my point of view. So I never did one of those coffee Fridays. I never participated in the Study Abroad fairs.

Let me try to explain how it feels.

First, put yourself in a foreign student’s shoes. You’re trying to adapt yourself to the language, the culture and the way of living of the country you’re living in. You’re trying very hard. You’re avoiding your compatriots in order to have the most authentic experience possible. And it is exhausting to adapt yourself every second. But refreshing, and very interesting.

Now, take into account that all the time, you’re reminded that you’re a foreigner. You’re reminded that you have to talk about your country. Anything people want to know about you is your country, or your language. At first, it’s nice. Yes, I enjoy to talk about my country a little bit. I also know as a fact that my language is appreciated here. But you know what, let me mention it on my own terms. I will talk about it when I feel like sharing it with you.

Yes, because I feel like I have a label stuck on my forehead that says “French.” It feels like the fact I’m French here composes my entire identity. And you know what? That does not feel good.

Furthermore, you know what’s the worst, on my point of view?

Well, I also noticed that most of my foreign classmates all live together here. That is to say that they basically spend their entire time here talking their own language and not experiencing American life.

This is clearly a lack of confidence in the system. A lack of knowledge of how it works here. A proof of fear to mix and match, because you make us feel like we are different.

So please, don’t make international students feel like they only are international students. We also have feelings. We have passions. We have our own personality and individuality. Please, see us as students. Just students.

We are here because we want to immerse ourselves in a new environment. In your universe. Let us do it. Please, let us the opportunity to forget about our nationality a little bit. Don’t worry, we won’t overlook our country. We just do not need you to remind us that.

And please, please, mix us up with the others! Explain us how it works! Make us join the thousands activities we have here. Split us! Organize one-to-one meetings with Americans!

Don’t make us always hang out with other international students. Ask us where we are going to live. Make us mix and match with Americans.

Also, students from SDSU: Yes, we have an accent. Yes, we are sometimes weird and different. But we are, above all, the-new-people-in-town that are seeking for friends and don’t know how it works.

Maybe, ask us to hang out? Come talk to us? Don’t hesitate to talk about yourself, about what you love… Share what you love about your country. Don’t make us talk too much about ours. And please, please don’t stay in your corner, looking at us like circus freaks.

You know, we don’t bite.

At least, I don’t!

Sincerely yours,

An exchange student.

Floriane Simondet is a graduate exchange student from France, majoring in business administration.

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the SDSU Community

Add yours

  1. I am currently studying in Mexico and finding a lot of solace in reading posts from this blog. I love the authenticity of your posts, and I share your frustration that other study abroad students would rather stick together and speak their own language (here, English) than go out and experience life in the host country. It’s even more astounding to me that most of my group is already Mexican and they STILL don’t want to practice their language and would prefer to fulfill the stereotype of the “annoying American tourist.” Thank you for posting.


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