Study in the USA at Pitt State!

International Student Spotlight
  • Georgia: Merab Basilaia
  • South Korea: Minjeong Baek
  • France: Fabien Coulaud
  • Ethiopia: Yasin Osman
  • Germany: Jennifer Michelle Schwarz
  • Kazakhstan: Elina Tokmurzina
  • France: Charlotte Guitton
  • Côte d'Ivoire: Aboueu Dominique Yapo
  • Venezuela: Daniela Pena Lucena
  • Taiwan: Nien Ping Pan


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Hello! My name is Merab Basilaia. I am 28 years old.  I am from Tbilisi, Georgia (which is a country not a state). Here I’m a Graduate student, I work for the Physics Department as well. So, it makes me a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Gamarjoba (hello in Georgian)! My hobbies include a lot of Astro photography like night sky dark pictures, a lot of off-roading, four-wheeling, rugby and lifting. I think those are all of my hobbies.

How did you come to Pitt State?

This is not my first time at Pitt State. I also did my Bachelors here as well and that was back in 2012 or 2013 when I came to Pitt State for the first time. I chose Pitt State due to the three main reasons. One of them is that I was looking for a college with a rugby team. Also, I wanted to enroll in Physics school but with an Astronomy background, and here they have a Greenwich observatory which is just half an hour from here. Those are the criteria I was looking for in a college, and Pitt State matched all of them.

What is your most funny/interesting experience at Pitt State

Well, it was interesting for me because of my background but I’m pretty sure that it is probably common here.  When I was doing my Bachelor’s, my truck broke down on the highway right outside Pittsburg. And it just wouldn’t start, so I was pretty much stuck there. It was December 24, it was right before the Christmas. And a police car came around. He pulled over, and he was very cautious - it was late at night. He approached and asked if I had any problems and what was wrong. Then we together tried to start a car for like 15 minutes, and when we couldn’t, he offered me a ride and brought me home which, I think, was pretty nice of him. So yeah, that’s the story, that was a different experience for me compared to my country.

So he gave you a ride to your home?

He helped me and then we got back and he helped me to bring my car back. He was really really nice. So, this is a thing: you usually see a policeman more as someone who reinforces the law but not as a friend or somebody who just helps you out. He was very friendly, even though he was very professional and cautious of who I was and why I was standing in the middle of highway. But he offered help and he helped me to get home safely. So, it was really nice of him.

What classes and facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

Graduate school is not fun because it is hard and time-consuming, so you don’t really have much time left afterwards. And as a GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant) after the classes I have to do 20 hours of graduate teaching which includes 4 labs and grading for the 5th class. It is very interesting though. For example, in terms of the language difficulties: a language barrier is a real thing but it also develops you in so many ways how you wouldn’t expect yourself growing professionally. And the interactions you get from the students are just the best, they worth it – the hard work, time you spend, sometimes sleep that you don’t get enough of. It is definitely worth it.

So, would you recommend international students to try their chances (apply for a GTA position)?

Definitely, yes! Well, it’s not going to be an easy ride but it’s really rewarding. First of all think of the benefits: you are getting a tuition waiver which is a huge (!) thing. Secondly, you are developing yourself along the way because of all the precious interactions you get from the students. Individual and at class interactions - both are the experiences that you won’t get anywhere else.

What facilities at Pitt State do you enjoy the most?

In terms of facilities, gym is the best especially the new one at the Plaster Center. This gym is probably the best gym I’ve been to, it is a very high quality. Also, I really like that I have a full access to Greenwich observatory, I’ve talked to the person who is in charge and since I’m a student here and Greenwich is owned by Pitt State any student can just go there and do any kind of research. If you just want look at a planet or star, it is right there, you are welcome. I didn’t know that before and I’m pretty sure not many students know about it. But it is something that is available for everyone. It is really beautiful when you look through the telescope especially the huge 24-inch one that we have up there.

What do you miss from home?

Definitely my truck. That is the easiest question you could have asked. Definitely my truck and going for open expeditions. That’s what I miss the most. And mountains. Okay, I have to say that. I miss my mountains.

How do you think International Office & international students & local American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

International Office. The first communication you have with a school is through the International office since you are an international student. And they are great. They are perfect, like their responses are always on time. If you need something, they just go beyond of what they have to do in terms of helping you. So, if I have a problem, I know I can definitely go there and ask them for help, and they will help me. You can rely on them. I cannot praise them enough.

Community. I’ve been living with a couple of families here, and I just have to say that everyone in Kansas is very nice. I think it’s a Midwest thing in America, everybody is really nice and sweet. Everybody just wants to help you. Everybody wants you to be successful. They want you to become a part of their community and they want you to be successful in their community.

International students. You do make friends because you all come from the same background. I have always been the only one from my country for long time but there are also international students from Post-Soviet Union countries, and we still have the same values system, and the same background of upbringing. So, you probably click with the people from some countries more than the others.

Do you think you have more friends among American or International students?

I think I have more friends among American students because I interact with Americans more.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

Studying abroad is not easy first of all. Because you have to be away from home, away from all your friends. Everything that you was used to is now different. And it is an experience that makes you become bigger than you are. Definitely not easy but if you are going to take it, it will be beneficial for you. It helps you a lot. Do it, if you are given the opportunity to go abroad and learn about a different, culture, and different communities. The experience is worth it. Definitely worth it.

What would you tell prospective students?

If they have an opportunity to come here and experience the culture and college life which Pitt State has to offer, definitely do it. Because it worth it.  But It is a long trip, I’m sure it will be a long trip for everyone. But it’s something that you will remember for your life. Even if you are here for one semester, it will just stick with you and you will always have this memory like, “I was there and it was so much fun!” or “This is how much I learned from that.” So, definitely come!


Can you tell a little bit about yourself.

Annyeonghaseyo (Hi in Korean)! My name is Minjeong Baek. My English name is Lily. I’m 22 years old.  I’m from Gumi in Korea. My home university is GNU - Gyeong-Sang University.

How did you come to Pitt State.

I wanted to live in United States someday since I was young. So I prepared for TOEFL right after I entered to university and there were two university that I was able to choose. One of them was Pittsburg State University. That is how I came to Pitt State as an exchange student.

What is your most funny/interesting experience here in the United States/Pitt State?

The most interesting experience for me was, of course, a Pitt-Pal program. My home university also has a similar program called a “Buddy program”. When I was in charge of a “buddy”, I made so many international friends, and it was fun as well. Here Pitt-pal program has even a bigger variety of activities, so it was very fun. Thanks to this program, I was able to stay here without feeling homesick and lonely.

There were so many “culture shocks” when I first arrived here. But I got used to almost all of them, so now I do not remember what they were exactly. But the one thing that I still did not get used to is “Tip Culture”. I usually calculate 20% of the whole bill but sometimes it is pretty hard to write it down right in front of a waitress. Whenever I try to write down a tip right in front of a casher or waitress, I feel I should pay more and more. Also, the other culture shock is the price of water. I used to freak out looking at the price for a small bottle of water because it was the most surprising. I cannot believe how expensive it is even on campus.

How do you like academic life at Pitt State?

Korean University, at least my major classes, usually give us only two exams in one semester without homework or something else even though both of them are pretty big and comprehensive. Also the grade system is ranking. But here is totally different. I was able to get good grade even though I studied similar to others without competition too much. I was able to make my grade increase throughout whole semester. So these system made me enjoy academic life.

What is your favorite class at Pitt State?

There were so many classes that I enjoyed here. It is pretty hard question to choose one, but If I should select one of these, I want to say the Painting class was fun.

What facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

Rec-center, Weede and piano rooms helped me to reduce stress level from academic studying.

What do you like most at Pitt State? What do you do here in your free time?

I love exercising at Rec-center!

What do you miss most from home?

Definitely Food. I like spicy food a lot. But It is pretty hard to find enough spicy level’s food here except for Korean restaurant and spicy ramen.

How do you think International Office & international students & local community help international students to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

They are always super nice. Most people try to understand what I’m saying even though my pronunciation is not good. And they were always kind to help me out when I needed some help.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

I think that it helps a lot! It’s very helpful in terms of understanding other countries and improving your language skills. But I’m pretty sure there won’t be any good results if there are no efforts from your side as well.

What would you tell future/prospective students at Pitt State?

Though I have stayed here only for one year, I’m pretty sure that Pittsburg State University is a great university with a bright future and many wonderful things ahead.


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Bonjour! My name is Fabien Coulaud. I come from France, from a little city north west of Paris but currently I’m studying in the city more in the south, La Rochelle, a pretty nice city on the Atlantic coast.  I am 21 years old, I turned 21 here, and it was amazing.

How did you come to Pitt State?

In France in La Rochelle my home school has a partnership with the universities all around the world, and I had an opportunity to choose one university, and I decided to come to Pitt State. Because it’s in the United States, and this is a country and culture that I would like to discover. And also the way to learn because is not the same as in France. My major is International Business.

What is your most funny/interesting experience at Pitt State?

At the beginning of the year, I received lot of like party messages from other students inviting me to come to pregame. But it was only 8 pm, so it was too early for me because in France we usually pregame after 10 pm. So, it was really surprising, so I asked them why do you want to do it now. It was really funny.

How do you like the academic life at Pitt State?

It’s very different from France, because in France, the subjects are imposed by the program that you are choosing, whereas here you can choose specifically all the subjects that you want to study most.

For example, for my program, I chose only Financial classes which is my main interest and the main thing that I want to work with in the future. So, it is really interesting to see the way you can learn what you want here.

What facilities at Pitt State do you enjoy the most?

During my free time, I really like to practice sports and discover new sports, so here at Pitt State we have two fitness centers, so it’s a real opportunity for me to practice sports. For example, I discovered a Kickball, which is a game that I have never tried before, and it’s really fun. So, I go to the gym and practice different sports, and I really like it.

What do you miss most from home?

Apart from French food, which is a big thing that I miss from home, I would say it’s buildings. Everything is flat; the highest building I think is a library, so I miss some heights.

How do you think International Office & international students & local American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

International Office. Before coming here, I had to fill a lot of papers and documentation, so the International office really helped me to fill them out, I asked a lot of questions, and they answered me very quickly. The person who helped me most was Aaron Hurt. He is very nice, and I think he is the main person who I consult with before making my decisions today.

American students. I met some Fraternity guys; they organized a recruitment session, so I went to their place to see what Fraternity means, so during this recruitment time I met a lot of American guys who are now my friends. So, I think fraternity recruitment was the biggest event that helps you to meet many American students

International students. As exchange students at the beginning of the year, we have a welcoming week and during this week, I met a lot of international students who helped me to feel like at home here. Today some of my best friends here are the international students such as Brazilian, as Indian, Paraguayan, so I meet a lot of people from other countries.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

Studying abroad is really important; it helps students because, first of all, you will discover a new country that you don’t know much about. Also, you’ll improve your language skills, for example, here at the beginning my language skills were not really good, but after a few months I feel that my English level has improved. It will be of a great value for my future

What would you tell prospective students?

First of all, bring an umbrella, a coat and pass you Driving License because you will need it to travel. On a more serious note, I would say that if you want to meet a nice person to practice English, I think Pitt State is one of the best places. Everyone is very cool and very friendly, so you won’t have any problems to communicate and make relationships with other people.  Even on the streets, you can just exchange a few words with someone. I feel very comfortable here.


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Hello! My name is Yasin Osman. I am an international student from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, which is located in East Africa. I am a regular student, so I am going to study here for four years. Now I am doing my Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and after my graduation, hopefully, I will go to medical school.

How did you come to Pitt State?

Actually, I heard that Pitt State has a very good biology department and that professors there are very professional. So, this was my main motivation to come to Pitt State.

What is your most funny/interesting experience at Pitt State?

Are you ready for this, guys, because I think it is very funny. One day I was at class, I think it was my first semester here, and our teacher told us that at midnight the clocks would change to summer time, so we had to make sure to change all our devices like mobile phones, clocks etc. Usually mobile phones can switch to new time automatically, but I don’t know why my mobile did not do this. Next day I had a class at 9 am in the morning, I did not change anything, and woke up like at 7 am according to my watch.  I went to class and was like “what is going on” because there was absolutely nobody at class! I waited for 20 minutes, then I went to the professor’s office and asked him if the class was canceled or something, but he said that they actually already finished. So it was really funny because the clock moved to one hour earlier and the class was actually over.

What classes and facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

I enjoy most of my biology classes: they are really fun and interesting, even my labs.

As for facilities, what I really like about Pitt State more than any other school, is that you can use two gyms for free. You can either go to the Weede or Plaster Center, as it is also called, and you can work out there every day. Also, you can go to Student Recreation Center (Rec Center) where you can exercise from 6 to 11 every day, so whenever you are free, you can use it.

My favorite event at Pitt State is Homecoming because I really like the overall atmosphere: how all local community smiling cheers up the international students during the parade.

What do you miss from home?

What I miss from home is just home food actually. Also, some of my friends too. And of course it is always good to see you your family. I went home this summer, so I am actually good for now (laughs).

How do you think the International Office & international students & the American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

The International Office helped me very much starting from the first day of orientation until today when I am already a sophomore. I usually go to IO whenever I have questions about my tuition, health insurance and other things if I don’t understand what to do with them.

The best way in which the Pitt State community helps international students is that they are very open-minded and positive. Some of them are even host families for international students.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

Actually studying abroad, especially here in the US, helps students broaden their minds, as you will meet different people from different countries, different cultures and races. You will learn how to interact with them and know what they like and what they do not according to their cultures. Also, being away from home is useful to get a new experience, and this works even if you are looking for a job. The first thing that your employers will look at is your experience - people will always look at how much experience you have. So, in my opinion, the most important thing that international students can get coming from their home countries to here is a new experience.

What would you tell prospective students?

If you want to feel like at home, you can join different organizations like, for example, the International Student Association and participate at different international events, so you can see other international students like you or even the students from the same country as you, and find new friends to hang out together. Also, they can be helpful and can give good advice because they understand most of the situations that you as an international student might go through. As for academic life, I would recommend to come to Pitt State for the high quality of education, and if you want to meet professors who are very knowledgeable and always ready to help you.


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Hello! My name is Jennifer Michelle Schwarz. I am 22 years old. I am from Freiberg, Germany.

So I study back home at Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg. My major is Applied Natural Science. My major at Pitt State is Biology, so since I don’t get any credits back home, I am taking fun classes like acting, general psychology, animal behavior and sport classes.

How did you come to Pitt State?

I learned about Pit State because it is a partner university. My university has an agreement with Pitt State, and thanks to that, I don’t have to pay tuition: they are paying for me.

What is your most funny/interesting experience at Pitt State

So, there are many interesting and funny stories actually. For example, this weekend I went to Pumpkin Patch, and I haven’t been to one before. We don’t really have it in Germany I guess. So, I thought it was cool to walk around in a corn maze, and they also have a big bath tub filled with corn and you can like bath in corn. It was so weird and cool, and I really liked that.

How do you like the academic life at Pitt State? What classes and facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

I’m taking easy for me classes, so I’m really enjoying being at class, and learning some new interesting facts. For example, my favorite class is Animal Behavior with Dr. Brodsky, and we do fields trips, we have fun lab activities, and I really enjoy that. We don’t have this class back at home in my university in Germany. One thing that is different about an academic life at Pitt State is that you have a lot of homework, and you take quizzes in between the semester. Back home we have only one final at the end and that is it.

Is it good or bad how do you think?

I think it’s better they make you study and you can see like oh I know about that but when you are not certain about some other things, you have to look them up again. So you can track you process.

Facilities. I like most the library because there you have these study boxes, and we don’t have them back at home in our library. And I think I spend almost everyday in one box. I like that they opened a coffee stand. I hang around the Student Center a lot –it’s a nice place, so you don’t have to go back to dorms and be all by yourself. So, you can hang out with your friends. I also really like football games, so that’s definitely a thing that I don’t really do in Germany. American football is cool.

By the way, during the finals at library they give out free snacks, so you will probably like that

Wow, nice!

What do you miss from home?

The most I definitely miss the food, home cooked food from my mom.

What dishes are your favorite?

It’s really hard. It’s basically all home cooked food. As a student, I eat a lot of spaghetti, and pasta, and cheese, but we also have the kind of bread that you can’t buy here. And yeah, I miss that the most.

How do you think International Office & international students & local American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

I think they helped me a lot during the Orientation week. We had time to meet each other, get settled in, and find a lot of friends. They gave us a lot of advices like, for example, where we could get a free dinner on Tuesdays, or, you know, how to get prepared for the semester or some culture shocks, so you don’t get them. So, you always know where to go if you fee homesick.

I think local Americans helped me a lot: like you know, they have a car and they can go with you to Walmart to get some stuff or with them I went to the Pumpkin patch. So they know fun activities to do, and they can introduce you to other friends. Explain football (laughs)

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

Studying helps you to develop your personality, discover who you are or what you want, it helps you to learn the language, how to connect to people you don’t know at all or you cannot change these people because you don’t know their culture. You have to get to know their culture and be open-minded.

 Sometimes you have friends who are like from all over the world because you meet other internationals. If you stick together, it’s cool because, for example, if you want to go somewhere on holidays and you know someone there (laughs), you can just crush at their place, you know, for a night. You learn to see things from a different point of view.

What would you tell prospective students?

For future students I would say: “Once a gorilla, always a gorilla.”


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Hi. My name is Elina Tokmurzina. I am from the City of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.  

How did you come to Pitt State?

I'm a graduate exchange student in the Department of History, Philosophy and Social Science. Pitt State is a wonderful university to go to! There are so many different options for degrees, programs and activities.

What was your most interesting experience in the Pittsburg State University ?

There are two aspects that surprised me the most. The first is unpredictable weather - you never know when there will be a heavy rain or a strong wind. And the second one is the university administration and faculty: they are so amazing and always trying to help!

How do you like the academic life at Pitt State?

It doesn't matter where you are from, you will have a plentiful amount of support from professors and students. During the class, you don't feel deprived of attention just because you are a foreign student. And as I said there are always students in the group who want to help.

What do you miss most from home?

Most of all I miss family, because family is the most valuable thing that everyone has.

How have the International office, international students and local American community helped you?

The International Office staff are very responsive and always provide great opportunities for students. And despite the high workload of the office, they constantly organize a lot of cool events.

How do you think studying abroad helps students?

One of the greatest benefits of studying abroad is the opportunity to create lifelong friends from a different part of the world. Also, you'll expand your worldview. It's very important.

What would you tell prospective and future students of Pittsburg State University?

Pittsburg State University is the place, which ensures a bright future for anyone willing to work hard and put in the effort for achieving goals.


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Bonjour! My name is Charlotte Guitton. I come from France. I’m studying Business at La Rochelle Business School. It’s a little town on the West Coast of France. I’m 20 years old.

How did you come to Pitt State?

At my French school, we have a program that allows us to study one year abroad, and I chose the United States. There were several schools in the United States I could choose from but I decided to choose Pitt State because I liked the program at Pitt State, and the area and everything else seemed good to me compared to others. So, that is why I chose it.

What is your most funny/interesting experience at Pitt State

The funniest or maybe a culture shock experience for me was celebrating Halloween because here in the United States you are big fans of Halloween, but we don’t really do it in France. So, I tried pumpkin carving on the Halloween day (like a week ago), and I really liked and enjoyed it.

What classes and facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

So, in France we are not choosing classes that we are taking - just the study area.  My major is Business Marketing, and here you can choose not only your major but you can also choose all the classes that go with it. So, that is a major different thing that I really like because here I can choose to do more Marketing things than Finance which I cannot do in France. So, that’s the main thing that I like. One of my favorite classes is Advertising Management with Dr. Dalecki. I don’t know I just like the way in which the class is conducted.

The thing that I like the most here is that everything is bigger than in France. And I don’t know - everything is just different like the interactions with the students and especially international students. Also, it is very welcoming and whatever you need they are here for you. Whether it is your teacher or boss, they are more like a friend for you I would say.

Favorite facility

I like Overman Student Center. You are free to do anything you want here. That is one of the things that I like about it. I would say that all the associations like the Outdoor Activities one, the International Students Association and etc are also here. We planned many activities, we played a ping ball, we went camping with the Outdoor Activities Club, we participated in a Homecoming parade with all the international students. So, I really liked all the activities that we had.

What do you miss most from home?

It’s kind of cliché with France but the thing that I miss the most –except from my family, friends and stuff- is the food. The French food. Because the American food is so different from the French one, there is more sugar and stuff. So that is the pretty much the main thing that I miss the most.

What would be your favorite meal that you would like to eat from home?

Maybe bread. Bread with butter. Baguette. It is maybe very classic but that’s what we eat everyday.

How do you think International Office & international students & local American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

The International Office was here for me because they helped us with the integration, and all the papers that we had to do. Then when we needed something like, for example, we needed to figure out a Driving License process, or whatever we needed, we could just go and ask them for help. So that’s the best thing for an international student.

International students. I bet all the international students especially during the first week of orientation become like a big family, so whenever we did something, we could gather together and do plenty of stuff. As for Americans, I have a Pitt Pal, so I do many things with her, and we try to stay in touch. She invited me for the Thanksgiving and I really want to try that. But it’s more difficult to make friends among Americans because we usually get only one class with them, so we don’t have enough time to get closer. But whenever we talk to them, they are very nice and open-minded.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

Studying abroad helped me a lot because we don’t have the same language in France so here I’m in the language environment so it’s easier to speak the language because we hear it everyday. So, that’s the first thing. Also, you’ll discover a new way of how to learn, spend time with people and get closer to each other. It’s a fun part of it, and it makes learning more interesting.

What would you tell prospective students?

I would say just come to Pitt State because you will have fun and you will discover new things. Just come!


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Bonjour! My name is Aboueu Dominique Yapo. I come from Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. I am 24 years old, and I am a sophomore at Pittsburg State University. My major is Business Marketing.

How did you come to Pitt State?

My friend was already here. So, I talked to him, and he sent me the name of the school. I googled it on the internet and found a lot of information about the school. Then I prepared and sent my admission documents, and my friend helped me a lot during this process. So, this is why I am here today.

What is your most funny/interesting experience here in the United States/Pitt State?

So, I have one. When I first came here, I had a roommate. One day the weather was very cold like really cold, so it was also freezing inside the house. She - my roommate- was away, and I couldn’t figure out how to use AC and change the temperature. So, I went to sleep wearing my coat and covering myself with many blankets (laughs). After that, when she was back home, I asked her if she can show me how to use it, and we both laughed at this situation. So, it was so funny!

What do you like most at Pitt State? What do you do here in your free time?

I really enjoy spending time alone and doing something interesting like, for example, trying a new recipe, but also, I like to spend time with my friends here. Here, you can join different associations and stuff like that. So, it is very cool. For example, I participate in the African Student Association.

How do you like academic life at Pitt State?

I really like it because it is a calm and quiet place, so you can easily focus on your studies. My professors are really good. They are always trying to help you, and even if you don’t understand something, you can talk to them after class or send them an email. So, it is very very cool. They are very nice.

How do you think the International Office & international students & the local community help international students to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

The IO organizes a lot of events to help students to adopt here, and they are very fun. I really like the Food and Culture Fair. It’s like an event when all international students cook and all the locals come to try your national meals and pay your association money for food. So, it is very nice.

Also, I have an American lady help me at church. She is very helpful and nice, and she even told me to call her Grandma (laughs). So, I have an American grandma. It is very cool, and she picks me up every Sunday, so we can go to church together. She is very nice.

Do you miss home and what do you miss most?

I really miss my home. Environment. Family. I am very close with my family: my sister, brother, nephew, niece, my boyfriend also (laughs), and others. And I really miss my mom’s food.

What would you tell future/prospective students at Pitt State?

It is great to be here. If you want a nice peaceful place to study, it is perfect. And here people are very friendly and nice, so you can easily talk to someone. It is really great to be here. So, please come to Pitt State!


Can you tell a little bit about yourself? How did you come to Pitt State?

My name is Daniela Pena Lucena. I am 28 years old. I am originally from Venezuela exactly from the city of Barquisimeto. I came to Pittsburg State University to pursue a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. The main reasons why I came here are the reputation of PSU and because it’s one of the closest universities to where me and my family settled down.

So your family lives here as well?

Only my husband and my child. She was born here. I already got my undergrad from the United States. So, we decided just to stay and get more schooling done while things are settled down back home.

What was your most funny/interesting/culture shock experience at Pitt State?

One of the funniest experiences I can remember since I came to the United States is not even knowing how to order food since I play sports where you usually go out as a team to eat either before the game or after, so for me it was a struggle. And my team also didn’t know any Spanish so it was hard but also fun because we had to overcome this obstacle and just have fun

So, you are playing some sports?

Not here. But I used to during my undergrad: I played 4 years of college volleyball. 

How do you like academic life at Pitt State?

Mostly, I enjoy every single class that I’m taking, but there are a few professors who make it an even warmer experience. At my department there is an instructor from Turkey, Dr. K, and he is a very welcoming -though also very demanding- professor, and for me it has been a very good experience because I feel that he gets what the international students are going through. And at class he just makes you feel a little bit like at home.

How different do you think the education here and your home country are? Was it hard to adjust here?

Here there are many ways of teaching and at home, there was a very orthodox way of teaching, it was more of memorization. It was very strict too, so it didn’t allow more freedom to put hands on  what you want to learn, it was more like whatever you have to learn is set, so you didn’t have a chance to choose which classes to take or even which career to take. So I mean being able to come here and basically pick and choose what you want and also see the facilities -and Pitt State has beautiful facilities- it just makes a difference. If I come early to class I know where I can go to have a quiet place to study; I know -because for me getting fit or staying fit is important- where I have a gym here. So, it has lot of commodities, so obviously when you are trying to work on your career, have a social life and still enjoy a family time and probably take care of someone, it makes it way easier and more enjoyable.

 What facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

Facilities that I enjoy the most, I think depend on the day. When it is warm, I like to be outside. Here the university takes a good care of the surroundings, and the campus is also very beautiful. I think there are two facilities that I use and enjoy the most. The library: they have study places, rooms that you can reserve, it is so stylish and pretty as well. And also, the gym because it has everything you might need.

Do you enjoy any other events or activities?

I don’t do any other extracurricular activities because of my schedule like being a mom, doing a grad school and so on.

So you have everything that you need to study in a comfortable way?


What do you miss most from home?

I miss everything. I miss home. Really just the things that I’m missing most are easing going ways, we don’t tend to be too busy to establish relationships, and just to smile to someone beside you and don’t look creepy like in America. But usually I miss my family and friends the most.

Why is it creepy? For example, I noticed that people actually do it here.

No, not like creepy, but it’s like a bubble. I see it every time at classes: it’s harder sometimes maybe because of different cultures to make friends…

Meaningful connections?

Yes, meaningful connections. Of course you make some connections with, for example, everyone in a dorm but meaningful? Maybe not so much. So, I miss that.

How do you think International Office & international students & local American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

-This is actually the first time I’m in a school where they have staff that is there just to help international students, and I think it’s very meaningful. I was very impressed with the amount of people they are hiring just to make sure that this is running how it is supposed to be. And taking care of the students that are coming from another countries is way different. And so this is something that I really value in Pitt State. They helped me so much to get my paperwork done because I was under the work visa before becoming a student and they helped so much to get everything right, I  flew back home to get my visa permit and came back. They were helpful and, what is important, very knowledgeable. Because this is what not every international student experiences enough. There were so many times when my past international student advisors had no clue what they were doing but here I didn’t have this experience. They really know what they are doing. So, it makes a difference in going to PSU than any other college.

What about the local community?

I had only wonderful experiences and I think it helps you form a perspective about an American culture. There was a family that kind of adopted me when I first came.

You mean a host family?

Yes, I wasn’t living with them , it was more just like they wanted to build a relationship with me. And it was meaningful. They were very kind, very generous too and they were actually helping me with the transition. For example, they would say hey you need warmer clothes, it’s Kansas. You never know what weather is coming. It depends. So they helped me though the process and let me know about the cultural things that I should be aware of. And this keeps you from sometimes making stupid mistakes and it also gives you a place far from home where you can just sit down and enjoy a meal with someone. I had countless Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas meals with them so I think that it’s very helpful to have a place where you connect with people.

International students?

My experience with international students was more open during my undergrad. I met people from everywhere: almost every country and almost every continent. I think that opened up my mind. Different religions, different cultures, different points of view, and I think it was something very meaningful. Almost every weekend I got to have a dinner with them and the family I just talked about. It was very insightful experience.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

I think it helps not just students but everyone. It’s an experience that all of us should have: it develops your empathy and you get to see other people’s perspective. You have a chance to test your values. To test who you are, to develop a person you are, to become more responsible. Not to be independent but to be interdependent. It is very important to be able to decide that this is going to be my home for the next 2 or 4 years and I’ll do the best with it. And I think that studying here in the states makes a huge difference because you get to know different people. It just opens up your mind so much! I think I wouldn’t be the person I am right now, if it wasn’t the opportunity to come here in the first place.

How hard is to be a full time mom and international grad student?

Right now it’s difficult but I think it helps you to find the ways. I would let my baby “study” with me. So, for example, if I’m watching an educational video for my Neuros Psyche class -which is a really deep stuff that I don’t have a good knowledge of - I let her watch it with me and for her it is just fun. Or for example, if writing a paper, just give her a little computer, so she can just type with me. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t, so you just have to try things.

What would you tell future & prospective international students?

Because of my experience here at Pitt State, I would say that they will be in good hands from the first day when they submit the application.  They will work with the international office; they will be guided through the process; they will be in the hands of people who know what they are doing who will give them feedback in everything important. So in that sense it makes a huge difference in coming to Pitt State instead of going somewhere else. Also, I’d say that it’s a worthy experience because if you decide to invest in your education here, you can learn a lot from the American as well as many other cultures here and have an opportunity to grow in a professional and personal life.


Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I’m Penelope and my Chinese name is Nien Ping Pan. I’m from Taichung City, Taiwan. I’m 20 years old. I study at National Union University of Science and Technology. I like to take a lot of pictures and keep a diary.

How did you come to Pitt State?

I am an exchange student.

What is your most funny/interesting experience at Pitt State

Once I went to the movie theater with my friends and we decided to order popcorn because my friend loves sweet popcorn a lot. But when we tasted it was so salty! Then we saw that many people added something on it and we figured that it must be sugar because Americans love sugar a lot. So we took our popcorn there, and put a lot of that thing on it but after tasting it turned out very very salty and then we realized that it was butter but not sugar. And we put a lot!

What classes and facilities do you enjoy most at Pitt State?

I think studying here is quite difficult for me because I have to study really hard. My favorite class is English Grammar and Usage with professor Rudd: he is my favorite professor. At first I didn’t like it because there are a lot of assignments there, like every class, but he told us that he doesn’t care how bad or how good we did the assignments; what he care about is that we have to be honest to ourselves and not look back to the answer keys. Also, if you have any questions you can always go and see him during his office hours. He helped me a lot. What I like the most in his class is that he had many extra credit opportunities

Talking of the facilities, I like the Writing Center the most because I have a conversation partner there and it is helping me a lot with my writing. There are two people in the Writing Center that I am definitely grateful for. First one is my conversation partner Miss Elli. At first, I didn’t really like to talk to Americans because I was afraid to open my heart and walk out of my little world (laughs) but now she is helping me to build my confidence. So, I really like her a lot. And another person is Eli: he helps me a lot with my assignments. He would tell me why I should change this word into that word or correct my mistakes and tell me why. And if I don’t understand it, he would try to explain it in another way until I understand. He is always very nice.

And a conversation partner is a special program here at Pitt State?

Yeah, I saw the poster on the wall at Pitt State that we can talk to Americans and practice English, so I decided to go for it and there I met Ally.

What do you miss most from home?

I miss food a lot. Especially bubble milk tea because here in America, people like to drink really sweet things and that is not good for our health (laughs). I like to drink a lot but with tapioca and in Taiwan we can adjust sugar. So you can choose like “oh I don’t want sugar in it.”

How do you think International Office & international students & local American community helped you to adopt to life in Pittsburg?

When we arrived here, we had an Orientation week, and they helped us a lot especially the international students because they have gone through the same situation. After the Orientation week, I started my regular classes here, and I felt very bad and really sad because I just couldn’t  adjust here. But then my Orientation team leader sent me a message where he told me: “Oh don’t worry about that! It’s nothing to worry about. You are just in a new environment, nobody knows you! Just be brave, act and try something that you don’t know!”

As for the International Office, I would say that they helped me a lot even before I came here like sending me helpful emails every day and answering almost immediately. So that I can be here on time and enjoy my life here!

As for the local people, one time I went to the Taco Bell with my friends. I always take a lot of pictures because it’s my passion, and there was an American family who saw me taking pictures. They approached me and we talked about life here at Pittsburg. And I think it’s really cool that they weren’t bias towards me, they didn’t act like “oh because you are not American, I don’t want get close to you” but, on contrary. The locals see that you are a foreigner so they try to get close to you, talk to you, and be friendly.

How do you think studying abroad helps international students?

Instead of saying that studying abroad broadens your horizons -because everyone knows about that- I would say that studying abroad helps you know yourself better. You are in a new environment, so you don’t have to be afraid that you will make some mistakes. You can just be yourself, build your confidence, and try something new.

What would you tell prospective students?

You won’t regret choosing Pittsburg State University because this is a school with awesome activities and nice learning environment!

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