This semester Keene State College is graced with the presence of ten foreign exchange students from countries including Ireland, Ecuador, England, China and Japan.
Steven Spiegel, associate director from the Global Education Office organizes all of the exchanges. “It is amazing how domestically and international exchange students bring and offer so much to Keene State College,” Spiegel said.
Meghan Smyth, from Foxford County, Mayo, Ireland, says her transition from Ireland to the U.S. has been easier than expected, and credits a portion of the ease to the GEO.
“The transition has been a lot smoother than I thought it would be,” she said. “I was very, very anxious before I came because I’ve lived away from home for quite some time but never out of the country except for Spain, which was for two months over the summer. It’s been a lot easier because of the GEO and their help-–the orientation program that we had with them especially.
For senior Ben Forrest from Manchester, England, who traveled nine hours away from home to America, the transition to American culture was no big deal, as he’s been to the country five times.
The biggest shock to Forrest? American college life.
Forrest said, “I knew about American culture, but college culture is so much like the movies, but at the same time so much more because I’m living it and experiencing it, I’m not just watching it. Everything you see on TV about America is true so far, not going to lie. Pong is the ultimate student game that you see on television and you think, ‘No it’s not that hard,’ but it actually is a lot harder than it looks.” Smyth went on to agree with Forrest in regards to what she expected America to be like.
“The outrageousness of America- in a way. It makes me laugh. Greek life is the perfect example of college life in the movies. There are no sororities or fraternities in Ireland,” she shared. The differences between America and Ireland are humorous to Smyth.
“America is all that and more. There is something everyday that makes me laugh. I was in Walmart the other day and there was chewing gum that was dessert flavor – mint Oreo. If someone told me that’s something you could get I would never believe it. It was so crazy to me,” continued Smyth.
Smyth and Forrest both agreed when it came to friendliness in American people.
“What I like most about America is how friendly people are. I mean you’ve always got somebody and nobody’s going to turn to you and say no,” Forrest said. “People are always there to help you. English people are a lot more reserved. Americans are a lot more forward in terms of approaching people and social situations where English people are not as much that,” he concluded.
Smyth couldn’t agree with Forrest more when she stated, “I think it’s the greetings people give you; whether it’s someone serving you in a shop or a friend you just met, everyone’s got a big smile for you. I haven’t really come across anyone who wasn’t nice – positive attitudes all around.”
Smyth and Forrest said they were eager to travel New England and as much of the country as time permits.
The foreign exchange students have already been to Brattleboro, Vt., and Boston, Mass., with the GEO and global culture club.
Forrest said, “We have already been to Vermont. I am going to Montreal hopefully. I’m really looking forward to that because I’ve never been to Canada and have always wanted to go. I’d like to go to New York, and I really want to go to Salem, Massachusetts because I do theatre and it’s kind of known for their witchcraft, which sounds really cool. We’ve been to Boston, I really enjoyed that, I would like to go back.”
Smyth, like Forrest, wants to absorb as much of the American culture as she possibly can while here for the semester.
She said, “I will literally go anywhere. I went to a friend’s house just to see what a real American house is like. All of that really interests me.”
Aside from positive aspects of America, there is always a bit of culture shock. “In America everyone’s very punctual. You’re like crazy, you’re ten minutes early to everything and everyone in Ireland is five minutes late. Time is money here, where in Ireland time is time for tea. It’s a bit more relaxed in that way in Ireland. It’s a very efficient way to live, (American scheduling). It’s a good way to live, but I like spontaneity more,” Smyth said.
Forrest agreed with Smyth, “Out here, I really believe time is money because it’s the way everything is scheduled in, everything has a deadline.”
Nicole Lackie, a senior from KSC, had the opportunity to study abroad in San Ramon, Costa Rica this past summer. The summer session was particularly beneficial for Lackie because she is a double major: secondary education and general sciences. And the summer session made it easier for her to graduate on time. “The summer program is great because you don’t miss anything going on at Keene State. The only bad thing about it is that it’s way too short. The process to study abroad is super easy; you write an essay and apply to the University you want to go to and to the GEO office. I most definitely recommend it,” Lackie said.
Lackie is carrying on the lessons learned in Costa Rica and applying them to her life at KSC.
In the short time Lackie was in Costa Rica she became almost fluent in Spanish.
The initial transition was difficult because she went in not knowing any Spanish.
Megan Markus can be contacted at