Exchanging one life for another

Some American students say that studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to live in a foreign country, speak other languages and experience other cultures firsthand. For those looking to escape the everyday environment of the College, it may seem strange that some international students choose to study abroad here.

Yet, as international students Marie Bubenzer and Klint Rivett describe, the College provides not only the chance to become immersed in American culture, but also a sense of community and opportunities for student involvement.

This semester, the College is hosting international students from Germany, Australia, South Africa and Sweden. Each stayed with a host family for a three-day orientation period before the beginning of classes.

Bubenzer, who majored in political science and American studies at the University of Frankfurt and is now working toward her masters degree, described the experience of living abroad and learning about new cultures as a “wonderful thing.” Originally from Hamburg, she is part of the College’s direct exchange program with the University of Frankfurt.

Bubenzer is president of the College’s German Club. The club has weekly meetings where students can practice speaking German with exchange students over lunch and also sponsors trips and German movie nights.

One of the biggest differences between Frankfurt and the College, Bubenzer said, was the campus environment. In Frankfurt, there were more than 10,000 students. There were university sports, but it was difficult to be involved, which is a contrast to how extracurricular activities are offered at the College.

“I think the students here merge together as a community somehow,” Bubenzer said. “I think I have more of an identification here than I had with the university in Frankfurt.”

In addition to the sense of community she found at the College, Bubenzer said she was impressed by the low faculty-to-student ratio. While she thinks that

school should foster a sense of independence, she was impressed by the helpfulness of the faculty.

“You can even call them on the weekend,” she said.

Bubenzer, who has visited the United States a number of times before, said that she chose to major in American studies for two reasons – her interest in different cultures, and the need to understand the United States as a world power. She attended the recent protest in Washington, D.C., and described the “power of the people” as “amazing.”

“It’s like going way back in the days of American history,” Bubenzer said. “I’m glad that I live today, that I am here.”

Rivett is a senior business major from Macquarie University in Sydney. One of his reasons for choosing an American school was to experience living on a college campus. Like Bubenzer, he said that the level of student involvement, and the opportunities to get involved, were much greater than at home in Australia.

Rivett is president of the International Club, which was started as a group for exchange students. Rivett is also involved in starting the College’s chapter of Business Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that raises money for Africans living with HIV and AIDS.

Rivett said that living in the United States has been a bit of a culture shock.

“You grow up watching so many American (television) shows, you don’t take into account how differently things are done,” he said. “But that’s what makes going on exchange so rewarding, all the little things they don’t bother to tell you about.”

For example, Rivett says, Americans are very time-conscious and eat different food.

“But I was prepared for that one,” Rivett said. “Americans aren’t the healthiest eaters in the world. That said, one of my favorite meals in America so far was at the diner having a burger, chips and a chocolate shake.”

Rivett has already started sending home souvenirs from the College, including a “TCNJ Mom” T-shirt. When asked what he misses about home, Rivett described sitting by the harbor.

“Sydney is such a beautiful city,” he said.

He also said he misses everyday things.

“You miss your friends – of course you’re going to miss that,” Rivett said. “But in no way am I saying that I want to go home tomorrow.”