Samson Wang, a 16-year-old from Shanghai, China, is considering coming to the United States for college. He already has a leg up: His international high school prepares students to take the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.
Wang wanted to experience life on an American college campus. This summer, he got that chance at the National Student Leadership Conference at American University.
“I was also drawn to NSLC because when I visited (the University of California at) Berkeley last summer, I thought it was a prestigious university and thought the program (taking place at that time at Berkeley) would be a good fit for me,” Wang said.
Wang is one of the more than 95 international students from 38 different countries attending the National Student Leadership conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. Teenagers from all over the globe applied to be a part of NSLC, many with the same hope of learning as much about journalism as they could in 11 days. Although the students came from different countries around the world, the admissions process began the same. The international students received an invitation in the mail, were nominated by their teachers, and were soon on their way to Washington, D.C.
Guilherme Ribeiro, a student from southeast Brazil, came to NSLC with the intention of exploring the world outside of his home country and experimenting with the field of media arts. Ribeiro, who will soon begin the college application process, said he chose NSLC because he loves Washington D.C. and wanted to learn more about AU, which he considers to be an impressive institution with plenty of opportunities to study acting.
Some students found the transition to American culture overwhelming, while others adapted easily. For Seayeon Park, a 16-year-old from Korea, the plane ride to America proved to be more challenging than expected. When she first arrived at the airport, she found herself overwhelmed by a new country and the distance separating her from her family. Although Park felt anxious about the 11 days that were to come, she fell into the rhythm of American culture with ease and had little trouble making friends.
Other international students noticed differences between the U.S. and their country. William Black, a 17-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa, experienced a culture shock when traveling to the U.S. because of the hectic schedules. Back in South Africa, Black spends most of his time near the beach surfing, while in America, he said, there is very little time for leisure. However, Black said that the quality of life in the U.S. is much better than in South Africa. “South Africa is a third-world country with aspects of a first world,” Black said. He found that there is more poverty apparent in South Africa, and the cost of living in the U.S. is much higher.
Most of the international students did not have any trouble adapting, and found that although there were some differences, their cultures held striking similarities. Jahanvi Srinivasan, from New Delhi, India, said, “America is different from India in the sense that it is much cleaner and much more organized. But besides that, the quality of education is the same, and the cultures are very similar. Also, everyone is very fascinated by my accent.”
Srinivasan said she values her experience living abroad and believes that going away from home and meeting new people is an “amazing experience.”