Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
By Michelle Raghunandan, Class of 2015
Binti Persaud clutch her oversized hand sewn bag filled with goodbye letters, photos and cards. She anxiously waited at John F. Kennedy Airport arrivals gate for her Auntie Vidya to arrive. When hearing her name called she glanced over and saw her and Aunt and family dressed up welcoming her to the country.
“It was a strange sight to see, they used to sew everything but now they look like film stars,” Binti, 17, said.
Binti came to live in Jersey City, New Jersey for a chance to further her education. She is a part of the forty percent of foreign born residents in New Jersey, according to the U.S Census. The process of assimilation is one of the many issues faced by foreign teenagers. It is something that may come easier or slower for some. As a native of Guyana, Binti prepared herself for the cultural shock.
“I used to watch Days of Our Lives back home and I used that to reference American lifestyle,” explained Binti.
Using resources such as the internet and TV can relay some knowledge of American culture, but not all. C.L. (who asked to remain anonymous) hails from France is now attending Rutgers University and faced issues when trying to fit in. He moved to the United States back in 2007 and can recall some upsetting moments around the first couple of months of living in the US. He said once a classmate ask if he only ate baguettes and drank wine.
“ People can be so stupid, but I wanted to blend with everyone as quickly as I could,” he said.
C.L. showed a collection of pictures and in one of them, you can see a young man dressed with all designer clothing, hair slick back posing with his American girlfriend. He looks like an average American teenager hanging out.
“I hate looking at the pictures from when I just came from France, my girlfriend laughs at them, I’m not even wearing any Jordans,” he said. Jordan’s are a popular sneaker and sportswear line. It’s known for unique designs and being costly.
Many foreign students believe that it’s hard to blend in to American culture, because there aren’t enough resources for them. Professor Tushar Trivedi is the coordinator for International Students at Saint Peters College and agrees. Mr. Trivedi helps with the immigration process, finding jobs and board, but also tries to give guidance for students at the college. While most students are doing well academically, their social skills are hindered to a certain extent.
“Some students come from nothing or trouble parts of the world, they feel that they need to be strong and they don’t seek out help,” said Trivedi.
The International studies program has doubled over the last few years at Saint Peters. Trivedi states in addition to teaching and coordinating the program, he also runs another on-campus organization. As a result the International Studies Program is understaffed.
“It’s also a finance issue as well, I have a small budget to work with, so things we want done can’t happen I can only offer what’s available already,” said Mr.Trivedi. He hands over a picture of a group of students on a boat ride. “A few years back we went on this ferry ride and had a big dinner, because of the increase in students and decrease of money, I can’t do fun things like that anymore,” said Mr.Trivedi.
While there is no formal way to properly assimilate oneself to a new country, it can be done without having to truly sacrifice one’s identify. In Binti’s opinion, assimilation will occur.
“I have been here for a few weeks and I already am a fan of Burger King, I love watching Criminal Minds and I love the stores, when I send pictures to my mommy she already called me her American Star gal,” she said with a laugh.