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Exchange Student Perspectives

Fall Quarter 2018 Student Experiences

Iris Lam

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Why were you interested in an exchange program? Why did you decide to study at Northwestern?

I enjoyed traveling but it is really difficult to compromise a time with my family and friends. So I was thinking, why not exploring a place on my own? I would say, traveling allows tourists sightseeing, while exchange program allows students to explore a local culture. Initially I chose Northwestern because it is accessible to Chicago, which is in the middle of the United States and it is easy to travel within the States.

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in the United States?

The biggest difference for me is that United States students rely on themselves, there are a lot of readings and related write-ups per week. Students in Hong Kong are rather dependent on professors, students rarely read textbooks, but read lecture slides and notes prepared by professors.

For example, when I was studying Environmental Law and Policy at Northwestern, it was a bit difficult for me to pick up the study style at first. I only listened to what the professor mentioned in class, but I could only jot notes partially because it is difficult to highlight the main points in a 3-hour lecture. The professor also expected students to do their own readings and understand each environmental acts from the textbook every week. Luckily, the professor was really nice, I asked the professor for help after class and he guided me through until I got a perfect answer.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your exchange experience? How did you overcome it?

It would be most difficult to adapt to a new campus, as exchange students were not assigned to a Peer Advisor, because they had experiences to explore a completely new campus before. The campus was really big compared to my home university, I was unfamiliar to the locations so I rely on Google Maps a lot. Exchange students are only staying here for three months, with such short period of time, I would really like to make use of every facilities at Northwestern. I asked other freshmen students who were assigned to a Peer Advisor, so that I can get information from them. From them, I learnt where and how to print documents, the Writing Place, restaurants nearby in Evanston, walking within buildings by using shortcuts, etc.

What will you miss the most about studying here at Northwestern? What will you miss most about culture here in the United States?

I would miss the students at Northwestern. Students were extremely welcoming, and I have a lot to learn from their stories and experiences, particularly places they grow up in, traveling, interests and school life. I have watched American football and basketball, the atmosphere was really great, students were extremely supportive towards their own universities. Northwestern students have so much patience in explaining American sports to me, so I could experience the enthusiasm of American sports with them.

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Yunpeng Song

University of Hong Kong

Why were you interested in an exchange program? Why did you decide to study at Northwestern?

It is a good way to explore foreign and different culture and get to know more interesting people. Northwestern has its deep culture and great academic atmosphere.

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in the United States?

About the semester system. My home country has only 2 semesters but here is 3 quarters. Therefore, the studying period is shorter and more challenging.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your exchange experience? How did you overcome it?

To get accustomed to the different life style and culture. Also the weather.

What will you miss most about studying here at Northwestern? What will you miss most about culture here in the United States?

The wonderful professors and classmates. I would say I’ll miss most parts of the culture because it really provide me with some new feelings.

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Roy Ovadia

Tel Aviv University

Why were you interested in an exchange program? Why did you decide to study at Northwestern?

Studying abroad has always been on my mind, as I believed the exposure to different people and cultures is important just as much as my actual studies. I felt that getting out of my comfort zone would be a great opportunity to explore my strengths and weaknesses, and Northwestern was the most natural choice: It was at the top of every university ranking, the campus looked amazing, and it seemed to be very different than my home university in many aspects. It was only when I came here, that I also got to know the strong connection between the two universities, including many joint researches and even a shared innovation center being built in Chicago.

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in the United States?

One significant difference is the small number of students in some of my classes, 7 students in one of them (compared to over 100 students as a standard in Tel-Aviv University). This allows students to ask more questions, sometimes even off-topic, and creates the feeling of actual learning, rather than memorizing details for a test or work interviews.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your exchange experience? How did you overcome it?

Above classes, language and the distance from home, the biggest challenge for me was the weather in the Chicago area. As one who is used to the Israeli sun, and have never experienced snow, it was exciting to see white rooftops and trees for the first time. However, getting used to the strong winds and cold nights wasn’t easy, and I am convinced that my next visits to Chicago will be during the summer.

What will you miss the most about studying here at Northwestern? What will you miss most about culture here in the United States?

The most significant part of my experience at NU was the great people I have met. I am going to miss the diverse ethnicities, opinions and cultures of the students and staff, as well as their warmth and willingness to start a conversation at any time. Being able to have Japanese dinner, watch Indian dances, listen to Spanish music, and experience original American customs – all at the same place – is one of the greatest advantages of NU in my opinion. I have no doubt that I will keep in touch with the good friends I made here, and they are all invited to Israel to experience a little bit of my life as well.

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Josephine Manuputty

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Why were you interested in an exchange program? Why did you decide to study at Northwestern?

I originally come from Indonesia and I study in Hong Kong. Having experienced Asian education my whole life, I wanted to try American education and to immerse myself in the culture. I decided to study at Northwestern because it is one of the most prestigious universities in the country and it is only a one-hour drive away from downtown Chicago. 

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in the United States?

I think the difference is that, in America, students are more engaged during lectures and they participate more actively compared to students in Hong Kong.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your exchange experience? How did you overcome it?

It was rather hard to make friends with full-time students at first because by the time I came here, they already had their own circles of friends. But, I think that is to be expected since they had been here since freshman year. One of my groupmates I met in class, happens to have gone on exchange to my home university the year before. She invited me to a lot of events and made sure I get exposed to classic American college experience during my time here.

In the end, I also met a lot of wholesome people through clubs and classes.

What will you miss the most about studying here at Northwestern? What will you miss most about culture here in the United States?

I will miss the picturesque buildings and scenic views around campus. Apart from that, I will probably also miss the snow and cold weather.

I love how Americans are friendly and helpful – they hold the doors for me and even say “hi” even though we do not really know each other. Also, I feel that people here are more open-minded to different point of views. That is something that does not really happen in Asia in general. 

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Prasenjit Das

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Why were you interested in an exchange program? Why did you decide to study at Northwestern?

Northwestern appealed to me because I’ve always wanted to get an American education experience and Northwestern seemed a perfect match with its partnership with my university and its highly ranked courses. Also, its location near Chicago made it perfect.

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in the United States?

I feel like my home university has a larger class size than the class size here at Northwestern, especially for my math course. Further, the projects here are more advanced and look into current events in the tech industry instead of being obsolete.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your exchange experience? How did you overcome it?

There is nothing really very challenging that I experienced. I blended well with the students here as soon as I joined the university.

What will you miss the most about studying here at Northwestern? What will you miss most about culture here in the United States?

Small interactive classes, challenging machine-learning projects, football matches and cheering for Northwestern, and exchange friends and dinners at Sargent

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