The word ‘diversity’ is generally linked to easily identified differences in people. Their race, gender or even what style of clothing they wear. What students on Castleton’s campus may not know is that there are other areas of diversity at play, and due to assimilation, these individuals have blended in.
International students are easily identified when there is an accent, but some have become so accustomed to the American way of life, that it’s tough to tell the difference. Currently, Castleton has between 10 and 15 international students on campus, according to Renny Harrigan, associate academic dean. Most hail from Canada and most are interested in playing hockey for the college.
“We would like to increase international enrollment,” said Harrigan, “We definitely need ESL, English as a second language, because most come over and their English isn’t perfect.”
One international student agrees with Harrigan wholeheartedly. He feels if the college would offer ESL, it would make the college friendlier for non-English speaking students.
“[The college] needs to provide support or they won’t survive,” said Shoichiro Watanabe, a junior.
Watanabe is from Tokyo and only visits home during winter and summer breaks. During the rest of the time, he stays on campus or with friends in the states. He doesn’t seem to mind, since there are many things to experience in Vermont that a person can’t get in the big city. He has taken advantage of many of these opportunities including hiking, skiing, concerts, and events hosted by his fellow CAs.
As a business major, he hopes to travel and experience as many cultures as he can. Still, he wishes there was more diversity on Castleton’s campus.
“Here, the minority really is the minority,” said Watanabe with a warm smile on his face.
His accent is heard only if you listen carefully for it, and he says he has gotten used to the language at Castleton.
But there are phrases that stump him and that he finds particularly strange.
“Think outside of the box. It’s a simple phrase with a deep meaning,” he chuckles and admits to hearing this for the first time just last week.
While he has enjoyed his time on the Castleton campus, other international students might not have such pleasant experiences if the college doesn’t step up and help more.
“When international students, for which there have been only a handful of them, come to Castleton College, they face many difficulties,” said Delma Wood, associate professor of Spanish. “We need to make a commitment and make a genuine effort to include them.”
One student hasn’t had any trouble blending in or being included, but has had some trouble when it comes to slight differences in pronunciation.
“One time a professor was teaching us ways to pronounce words in effective speaking,” said Brandon Heck, who traveled from Canada to CSC for hockey. “He went through people then came to me and said ‘pronounce this word’ and wrote ‘about'[on the board].”
Heck has had no trouble fitting in with other students, and even if Canada is just north of Vermont, he feels his knowledge of American history is better than some students on campus.
“I feel I know more about the states than a lot of Americans, and I’m not smart.” said Heck. “Me and my girlfriend had a competition, who could name all the states the quickest, and she lost at like, 45.”
He chalks that up to the fact that all Canadian high schools require students to take an American history class.
Although Heck has been lucky, the ability to fit in and learn the American customs and norms quickly has been a problem for some international students. American colleges are all different, and what’s even more shocking is how different a rural college can be from a big city college.
“These students are aware that they quickly need to learn about the American way of life. However, they are not aware of how different the customs, procedures, and culture of a college in Vermont is from that of their own countries,” said Wood.
Harrigan said there’s a need for more staff to specialize in foreign exchange because there are barely enough people to aid those already here. Still, she is adamant about current students taking advantage of traveling.
“You can take in as many students as you send out,” she said. “Tuition would be a wash, so students coming here or going there would only pay room and board.”
She continues to say it would do others good to see exchange students taking an interest in the same things they like, so they’d realize “they’re just like me.”
“I’d love more people to take advantage of leaving campus,” she says, “Exchange in both directions is what changes things.”
Though Castleton’s campus is very diverse in certain ways, the international student conundrum has gotten Harrigan and a group of other staff, to gather ideas and information to increase enrollment.
“I’ve seen a Swedish application come through here,” she says with a grin, “The hockey coach is interested in recruiting from Sweden.”
“As a Spanish professor I would be thrilled to see more international students here on campus,” said Wood. “Here at the Spanish program we are always willing to go great distances in order to best accommodate international students