International students far from home

By Heather Fiore

The majority of people on this campus can’t deny the fact that English is their native language. However, there are dozens of students who travel thousands of miles from several continents just to attend Rider who can say otherwise.

From Western Europe to Southeast Asia, three international students shared their thoughts and feelings on how Rider life compares to life back at home.

Benoît Courtin, a business and marketing major, is in his third year of college. Courtin lives in Champagne, France, but studied about 250 km. (about 155 miles) away in Paris. He explained how classes and homework are very different in France than in the United States.

“Here, students take four to six classes, which means 12 to 20 hours of class per week,” Courtin said. “In my school in France, we have [many] more classes, around 25 to 35 hours of class per week. Nevertheless, we have less homework than you have here. We have more presentations and case studies.”

Since Courtin has been at Rider, he said he has had a very good and valuable experience. He chose Rider because he was persuaded and intrigued by what Rider had to offer, and liked that it was close to New York City. He also saw some major perks of being in the U.S.

“Paris doesn’t have a campus,” Courtin said. “You have to find your own apartment. Here at Rider, you have the possibility to live on campus and many activities are provided by different Rider organizations.

“Since I’ve been here, I’m very glad that I chose this university.”

Although born in London, freshman biochemistry major Obiaku Ohiaeri refers to Nigeria as her home. Her parents are from two different parts of Nigeria and are thus part of two different tribes: Auchi and Ibo. Not only does Ohiaeri have the blood of two different tribes running through her veins, but she also grew up in an area of Nigeria inhabited by the Yoruba tribe.

“I have been exposed to many tribes as Nigeria is very diverse in its cultures and people,” Ohiaeri said.

With a major move, such as leaving one’s home and country to attend school in a different culture and geography, there are a lot of crucial decisions to be made.

“I found out about Rider through my school counselor,” Ohiaeri said. “I read about it and liked it because it was a good school with good academics. It was my personal decision.”

Although it may seem that Courtin and Ohiaeri have come from far enough away, Van Pham, a freshman double major in finance and accounting, lives 12 time zones away in Southeast Asia. Born in Vietnam, Pham has lived there all her life.

For those who get homesick over a couple of hours distance from their parents, imagine being in Pham’s situation. However, despite the distance, she still manages to get her work done and enjoy American college life, even with a double major dangling over her head.

“I chose Rider because I would love to study in a small community in a private school because it’s easier for people to remember and get to know each other,” Pham said. “Rider was one of my first choices, so I was glad to be accepted with a scholarship.”

When Pham first got here, she was very surprised and pleased with Rider’s care and concern. To this day, she still feels the same comfort and joy from the staff as when she first arrived.

“I feel like Rider is my second home,” she said.

Although the residence halls at Rider seem unlivable to some because of their size, Pham said her room at home is just as small. However, there is one perk to being in her own house when it comes to personal space.

“At home, my room is the same size, but I don’t have to share it,” Pham said. “I used to have more private space [at home] than I have here.”

Despite the lack of personal space, the students Pham has encountered have made her dorm experience even better.

“Everybody on my floor has a sense of humor,” she said. “I am also learning how to live with people from different cultures by living in the dorms. There aren’t many Vietnamese students at Rider, so I’m forced to speak English instead of Vietnamese, which helps to improve my English.”

Although it may seem terrifying and nerve-wracking to leave home and go study for months in another country, thousands of miles away from home, Courtin, Ohiaeri and Pham’s experiences prove to be nothing but inspiring.

Because of the university’s smaller, more personal environment with many different studies and options, these three international students have chosen to take one big step in their lives. Rider has proven its diversity, care and dedication to its students, they said.

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