International Students Discuss Communicating Across Cultures

In a recent Communication Studies course, international students shared insight about what it is like to adapt to American culture as they pursue their degrees. 

The course, Intercultural Communication, examines the theory and application of communication behavior between different cultures and national systems. Assistant Professor Ikram Toumi’s class was greeted by students from Saudi Arabia, Italy, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria.  

Upon coming to America to study at Kent State, these students experienced communication barriers and expressed concerns about being able to communicate properly.  

“I’m going to have an accent, I’m going to make mistakes,” Italy native Umberto Pongan, ’22, remembered thinking. “Everything is going to be new; what if I make a mistake and people lose interest in what I am saying?” 

Hussain Ojaym, graduate student from Saudi Arabia, noted that he has tried his best to learn the language. He communicates often with students, making him feel more and more comfortable.  

Godwin Shitta, ’22, an international student from Nigeria, said he was not as nervous about having an accent, but was more nervous about understanding English grammar and common communication practices.  

“As you get immersed into the culture, you will naturally improve on these things,” Shitta said. “My favorite thing here is being able to express who you are and have discussions.”  

Tim Ogolla, a graduate student from Uganda, reflected about how he was shocked during his orientation when he saw how openly students and faculty were communicating with each other, specifically on topics such as safe sex. 

“In Uganda, you would not talk about these topics openly,” Ogolla said. “These would typically be private conversations with a specific family member.” 

Open conversations and self-expression in America seemed to be a core cultural difference. 

“People are open to people and how they want to express themselves. There is a freedom to be who you want to be (in America),” said graduate student and Ghana native Caswell Eshun

POSTED: Friday, March 18, 2022 - 11:44am
UPDATED: Friday, March 18, 2022 - 11:46am
WRITTEN BY:
Zach Zdanowicz, '22