European students say they fit in well

Tim Paluch

Editor’s note: This story is the second in a four-part series on relations at Iowa State among people classified in the same racial group.

International students coming to Iowa State all have a little trouble adjusting to the American way of life. For students coming from Europe, the road is usually a little less bumpy.

Jane Edwards, program coordinator for International Education Services, said European students relate better to Americans than other international students because of where they come from.

“I think because so many people in our part of the Midwest do have European heritage, there isn’t the visual difference that stands out to make people either be afraid or not interact at first sight,” she said. “It’s possible for the students, because of that, to fit in fairly easily.”

Edwards said because most European international students come to the United States with a strong English background, the language barriers aren’t as extreme.

“It is really helpful because our Midwestern students don’t have a strong non-English background, so that would be to their advantage,” she said. “Some of our students from Europe have some language concerns, but for the most part that doesn’t appear to be much of an issue.”

Marc Ruehlaender, graduate student in physics from Germany, said his relationship with American students is mainly on an acquaintance level.

“There’s not a real difficulty in relating with them, and there’s no problem talking with them,” he said. “There’s not a big reason why I shouldn’t have more American friends.”

But Ruehlaender said he tends to associate more with students from similar backgrounds.

“You don’t have to think about what to say and how to say it,” he said. “If you’re in another country and you know people from your home country, you tend to meet them just because they are from your home.”

Ruehlaender said it’s a lot easier to relate to someone like himself.

“There are a lot of cultural experiences that we as Germans have that are different from what Americans have experienced,” he said.

Ruehlaender said western Europeans at Iowa State assimilate fairly easily into American culture.

Srdija Jeftinija, associate professor of biomedical sciences from Serbia and adviser for the Serbian Student Association, said there isn’t a big difference between American and Serbian cultures, making it easy to get along with American students.

“The cultures are almost the same here,” he said. “I don’t think there is any problem; I’ve never heard of anyone complaining in any way.”

Jeftinija said Serbian students don’t really feel segregated from the American population.

“I think the tendency is to mingle with different people,” he said. “Initially when they come here, they tend to stay with their own for a couple of months, but then they meet classmates of all nationalities. They just find the people they go along with, no matter what nationality they are.”

Jeftinija said European students don’t have as hard a time fitting in with American students as some other international students do.

Orjan Eknes, senior in industrial engineering from Norway, said he doesn’t have many problems getting along with American students.

“I tend to work in groups with lots of other people,” he said. “You meet people in classes and you keep them in your class all through college.”

Eknes said language isn’t a barrier for him or people from that part of Europe.

“I haven’t had much of a problem with communication,” he said. “You have quite a strong English background when you come from Norway.”