Foreign Graduate Students Bring Diversity and Culture

By Rikki Carter, Andrew Hudson and Lisa Hyndman

Foreign graduate students bring fresh ideas and different outlooks on life to the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University.

Ashik Mohammed Shafi, a graduate student from Bangladesh, said education is a main focus and priority in his country. He said the opportunity to come to the United States is considered an honor and is appreciated. He, therefore, mapped out his steps to prepare for studying overseas.

Graduate student Ashik Mohammed Shafi Shafi studied mass communications and journalism at Dhaka University in Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh and Lubbock seem to be worlds apart, Shafi said the concepts he learned at Dhaka are similar to those at Texas Tech, but he did face some obstacles in Lubbock outside of the classroom.

One obstacle Shafi faced was the cultural differences between America and Bangladesh. During his first semester at Texas Tech, Shafi said he mostly stayed quiet and learned the new environment he was being exposed to.

"The culture and the etiquette, the way of talking and living, is a lot different than in Bangladesh," Shafi said. "So it took some time to learn the differences in how to communicate and express myself."

Coy Callison, Ph.D., and associate dean for graduate studies in the college, believes language barriers sometimes offer a different perspective.

"I think it's important to have a variety of perspectives," Callison said, "and I believe the international students bring those perspectives."

The foreign graduate students in the college enhance and bring variety to the classroom structure, and they also have the capability of promoting Texas Tech abroad.

Patrick Merle, a doctoral student from Privas, France, said he is the first Western European and French student at the college. He said he helps bring different viewpoints to the classroom, and with his professional journalism career in France, he can promote Texas Tech abroad to enhance the university's reputation.

Merle said his main focus at Texas Tech is to research cross-cultural agenda setting. He said cross-culture research is vital to the university because the studies create new opportunities for research.

Graduate student Patrick Merle Merle received his master's degree in history in Ireland and received his master's degree in journalism at the French Institute of Press in Paris, France. He arrived at Texas Tech in August 2010.

One of the differences between France and the United States, Merle noticed, is the methodological approach in research. He said in France academicians focus on a more qualitative style, and in the United States, researchers focus on a quantitative way of approaching education.

Graduate students Shafi and Merle both agree the professors in the college are helpful, supportive, and available to answer questions and address concerns the students may have.

Associate Dean Callison said he and the other faculty members take pride in making students feel comfortable in their new environment. He said one of his goals is to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Callison said he will never forget Merle's hardships when coming to Lubbock and how the faculty tried to help him.

"When he came over, the airport lost all his luggage and furniture," Callison said. "So he came over without any clothes and no furniture."

Callison said the faculty did not delay in providing help to Merle.

"One faculty member said she had a spare bed, another said they had a spare coffee table," Callison said. "The faculty really came together to help this student."

Dane Kiambi, a graduate instructor and student from Kenya, said that in Kenya, people are very conservative and are less accepting of other people's different opinions. However, when Kiambi came to Texas Tech, he noticed people were more open to different ideas and opinions.

Kiambi said in his classroom he likes to use examples from abroad, from Africa, Europe, and South America. He said he had students speak with him after class to thank him for his examples because they believe the information gave them a well-rounded viewpoint of the topic discussed. Kiambi said his courses prepare students to be sensitive to different cultures when they enter the work force.

Graduate student Dane Kiambi "The world is now becoming smaller and smaller," Kiambi said. "I realized that when I noticed how many American corporations are coming to Kenya."

Although the college does not have a formal program to help international students' transition to this country, Callison said most of the help the college provides is at an informal level.

"We just try to be there for the students," Callison said, "to be available for questions and to just be a friendly face."

Considering performance in the classroom, Callison said, the international students are very successful. He said he has noticed the main obstacle is performing day-to-day activities.

"Something as easy as going to the grocery store and asking the attendant for a toothbrush can be difficult for someone who is not accustomed to the language and culture," Callison said.

Callison said he always has liked working with the international students, and he said their presence enhances the College of Media & Communication.

"They make the college a better college, and the program a better program," Callison said, "and we are honored to have them here."

Rikki Carter is a senior public relations major from Houston. Andrew Hudson is a senior public relations major from Colleyville, Texas. Lisa Hyndman is a senior public relations major from San Antonio, Texas.