GEO office helps students experience new cultures


Most Keene State College students look out their residential hall windows and nothing new catches their eye; but there are those who have never seen such sights. Even the simple action of driving on the right, not left, side of the road is alarming, because in some student’s cultures, the left side is the norm.

Every year, KSC has the opportunity to host several international students that come to experience American culture, and add a multicultural perspective to the college experience of local students.

Similarly, the Global Education Office at KSC gives students the opportunity to travel across the world through programs with different schools to learn and earn new life experiences.

Stephen Spiegel, associate director in the GEO said KSC has established partnership agreements with schools nationally and internationally. Spiegel mentioned that coming through the national program, there are over 200 different schools available for students that offer the same tuition and fees as KSC.

Denise Grattage / Equinox Staff

Denise Grattage / Equinox Staff

Many different partnerships are relatively inexpensive, Spiegel said. A list of places to study abroad include Ireland, Chile, England, France, Alaska, Kansas, Washington State, Nebraska, West Virginia and Ecuador.

“Students go to the fifty states through the national student exchange program. We send students to Canada, mostly Canadian provinces, we’ve had some go to the Virgin Islands, Gawan. There are fifty students or so that go out and, students coming in, we range about a handful, maybe one to four or five,” Spiegel added.

“The students from Keene go all different places and there are some that are more popular than others. We have quite a few English students because there are three Universities in England that we have exchanges with. The students might not necessarily be English though, students come from Bulgaria, and another last year who originated from China, so there’s a lot of diversity there,” Spiegel said.

Sophie Spiers is a student from Birmingham, England, who is studying at KSC this year. She said if she were in England this would be her final year, but she chose to have an option year out; so it doesn’t count for her degree but it’s extra personal knowledge. She is studying English with Creative Writing, she said.

“I love campus. I’m really glad that I came to a smaller one,” Spiers said. She added that she had to choose between KSC and a university in Ohio with 35,000 students.

“There’s more of a community feeling, everyone wants to get along with everyone because it’s smaller. It’s a nicer atmosphere,” Spiers said.

Another international student is Alannah Leonard. Leonard is from Luxembourg, but she studies in the U.K.

She said she had other options for schools to choose such as in Canada, Finland, or Europe. She said she was lucky she got placed in Keene. She’s studying film and she said, unlike where Spiers studies in England, the KSC campus is bigger than hers in England.

Leonard said, “There’s a lot more spirit, it’s nice. I like it so much I’m extending my stay to the whole year.”

Leonard has become involved on campus and works for the French Department, and is a teacher’s assistant for a couple of the classes, as well as a tutor for French students.

Spiers has started working on campus as well. She works at the Night Owl Cafe, participates in ballroom dancing, and is the secretary of the GEO club.

When asked about how it was being secretary of a club, she said, “It’s nice having a bit of power, isn’t it? I’ve never had that kind of position before, even though we have clubs back home they aren’t funded like they are here. They’re a little lazier and less organized. I never bothered with clubs back home.”

Spiers said the Global Education Office was very helpful.

“They even had us take a class on how to talk to Americans. He did day trips like canoeing. I couldn’t have been taken care of better, [it’s] such a good first year.”

Leonard agreed by saying, “GEO was always in contact. They’re great and always there when we needed help.”

Blue Hanley is another international student from Ireland. She said, “The people working at the GEO office were so helpful. I got accepted late and this college helped me more than my other one to get me organized.”

Hanley said she works at the information desk in the student center and is studying theater.

“I’m not used to everyone living so close to each other. Not everyone back home lived on campus, so it really is nice how close everyone is,” Hanley said.

Spiers said that some of her roommates have been really helpful, “Like if I need a car, they help me out.”

Leonard has a little different situation because her roommate is an international student as well.

“My roommate is from France so we can just talk, the other suitemates are sweethearts and have brought us home with them,” Leonard explained.

Baylee Boulem is a junior at KSC and she said she has experienced living with an international student while they studied at KSC. She said she lived with a student that came from York for her sophomore year.

“It was fantastic. I got to learn a lot, a lot about their homeland customs, beliefs, traditions—like they don’t have Halloween so that was different, they have a different language, different slang and are much more interested in fashion,” Boulem said.

She said she learned that at her roommate’s school back home, they didn’t have much homework or exams; instead they write major papers at the end of each semester to say what they have learned in their entire class.

“They’re more hands-on and orientated with their jobs. We are more based off classes and tests and exams, and it’s not really like that there. They have to be more independent,” Boulem said.

She said she didn’t really pick up any habits from her roommate last year, other than when she’d catch herself speaking in a British accent. She said she got pretty good at it.

Boulem said she suggests any student that has the opportunity to go abraod to take it right away. “If you’re young and get the opportunity absolutely take it because you learn a lot about yourself and other cultures and it is a great experience and something good to put on a resume.”

About her roommate, she said, “We got past the language barrier, which was the only thing in the beginning. We ended up being best friends,” Boulem said.

Another student, junior Brooke Stall agreed with Boulem and said she would live with an international student again. Stall also lived with an English girl during her sophomore year.

“She had a wild awesome style, so much more into fashion.” Stall also said her roommate that a different vocabulary than American students did. “Crisps are chips to them, and fries are chips to them, such different words, so many,” Stall said.

Stall said she caught herself practicing a British accent as well, and that Meridian picked up on our word use of “wicked.”

Both Boulem and Stall said they both hope to visit their old roommates sometimes next year.

Steve Spiegel said that the numbers of exchange students who come to KSC for a semester or a whole year are stable and consistent. The number of international students that are coming here to study as freshmen and staying for all four years and then receive a degree here, those are the numbers that have declined. But the number of exchange students is steady, Spiegel said.


Bethany Ricciardi can be contacted at

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