Community / Lifestyle

The International Experience at Dana Hall

If you walk into a Johnston Dormitory on any given day, you might see a group of Korean international students circled around the common room table, eating homemade kimchi while watching a Korean drama. Or maybe you’ll hear some students from Mexico jamming out to their favorite tunes and being one of the very few people you will meet that actually know the lyrics to “Despacito.” Even though international students seem to easily adapt to boarding life at Dana Hall, it’s not always the case. In reality, they may face many obstacles due to cultural boundaries.

“The most challenging transition for international students is the culture shock.” Says Mrs. Corrigan, Dean of Residential Life/International Student Advisor. Having worked with students from all over the world, Mrs. Corrigan notes the arduous journey of students “who are coming from a place where they’ve lived and grown with traditions they’ve been immersed in all their lives. Then they come to the United states and have a new experience adjusting to the norms and environment.”

Cultural change is a major struggle that is often overlooked in our community. Students at Dana Hall are so used to having international students around them, in their classes, advisories, sports teams, and friend groups. They tend to forget that it is very different for their international peers, with homes 16 hour flights away, possibly operating under a government with a whole other lifestyle, and a different perspective of the world. It’s important that we don’t forget that and appreciate their strength to fight any struggles they have as international students.

The two main struggles that students themselves have dealt with, apart from the obvious cultural differences, are homesickness and time management. International students face homesickness to a greater extent than domestic boarding students. As families swarm around campus during family weekend or as boarders leave for home during short breaks, international students are unable to reunite with their families like their friends. “Sometimes all you want to do is see your family in person. Sometimes Skype just isn’t enough.”

Freshman Rachael Chandley from Jamaica says. Although it’s a struggle to cope with, Rachel finds herself being able to exploit Dana’s riding facility to mitigate her feelings of homesickness. New sophomore Bink Vijitkasemkij says her main struggle at Dana is time management. She never had much difficulty managing time at her previous school in Thailand, as she did not have to play sports every day, which she finds takes a lot of time away from her studying. As she works through her time obstacle, Bink finds herself succeeding in making new friends and taking advantage of new academic opportunities and becoming active in the school community. “Everyone is so welcoming and friendly. I love the people who I am with, they’re amazing and push me to do my best” she says.

As students of Dana Hall, we all have been impacted by the Dana Bubble– boarders more so than day students. While some students like the seclusion and security away from the outside world, others find it frustrating that they are separated from the rest of the world. Many international students at Dana seem to like the “safe and protective environment that Dana offers” as Bink suggests.

Junior Saida Canales from Mexico says loves it as well. “I don’t feel like the Dana bubble is made of steel because once in awhile you can pop the bubble and head outside for some really cool trips” she says. As a person who enjoys having her academic life mixed in with her home life, she says she likes seeing the people that are in her dorm at school because it lets her see another side to them that she would not be able to see if they did not live together. For students who face hardships coming from another culture and country, they feel as though they are fortunate to have Dana be their home away from home, therefore enjoying the Bubble, its people, and its traditions.

“We are really lucky to be at Dana Hall as international students. It gives us the opportunity to come out of our comfort zone and try and learn new things that we are not used to” says Katherine Tsai, co-leader of the International Student Association (ISA) from the class of 2018. Although she faces struggles at Dana as an international student, she also appreciates being here as “people back at home typically don’t have the chance to see the outside world and make friends from different countries.”

Senior Ji Woo Jun from Korea who was a new student in her sophomore year realizes that during her three years at Dana, she’s grown so much. “I was afraid of being judged as an international student, but I’ve learned to speak up because I’m in this environment that is so supportive.” Both seniors agree that they can appreciate new things that they were not able to do in their respective countries, but they are now able to at Dana such as rock climbing, riding lessons, and being leaders in the school community.

Dana Hall truly is is a melting pot of diverse experiences and cultures from girls all over the world that are brought together and create our close-knit community. While we all have our own struggles in the end, what really matters is that we’re there for eachother together.