An international revelation
Adjustments made by international students can range from figuring out a new currency to learning a language, but for international student Ekta Haria, it was more everyday things like food and showers. She is learning more about her own country along the way.
Haria comes from Mombasa, Kenya and is a first-year biology major and business minor at Drake University.
Coming from Kenya to Iowa has changed a lot for Haria. She said her transition has been, “…not easy, but pretty smooth.” Haria said the transition was made easier because, “…of the people around, everyone is so friendly.”
Haria has learned about the culture here in the United States, some of which is very different than what she is accustomed to. Even her eating patterns have changed.
“I used to eat like five meals a day and normally over here you eat like two, maybe,” she said.
Another difference Haria has noticed is how people shower.
“Over here people don’t care if you take a shower in the morning or not,” she said. “At home, you have to take a shower.”
During her first-year seminar class, Queer Voices, Haria decided to research how homosexuality was approached in Kenya. In her lifetime, Haria said, she had only met two people who were openly gay, but when she came here she became more aware of homosexuality.
“Everyone was so accepting, so that was one of the most shocking things,” she said.
Haria said in Kenya homosexuality is considered a disease.
“While living there I had seen it, only it was given a different name,” she said.
This was the realization Haria came to about her country while studying in America – that she had seen homosexuality quite a few times, but it was referred to in a different manner in Kenya.
“During this research paper, that’s when it struck,” Haria said.
Looking back she now realizes that what was labeled a disease in Kenya is not treated as negatively in the United States. Pride parades and other such events would never be accepted in Kenya.
Haria’s pride remains for her country, but during her time here she has gained a new perspective on the issue and disagrees with the way her country treats the issue of homosexuality.
Photo by Taylor Soule, photo editor
“I’m closer to my country, being patriotic and everything,” she said. “But this is one thing that really hurt me.”
Taking a step back from a situation allows new perspectives and cognitive growth. Haria plans to take advantage of this realization by visiting all of the states. This way she can build new experiences and remain open to new perspectives.
As a Drake student, these types of multicultural experiences are readily available. Such experiences can be found through study abroad programs, multicultural organizations, culture focused courses and more. It’s just a matter of stepping out to find them.