The Magnificent Seven: Students from Southeast Asia Attend CSUDH Through Fulbright Program
A casual glance at a group of exchange students from the Fulbright Global Undergraduate Exchange Program at California State University, Dominguez Hills might lead one to believe they were all from the same Southeast Asian country. Upon meeting them, however, it is revealed that there is much more diversity in the group than meets the eye. Among them, there is a Muslim from Indonesia, two students from Laos and one from Vietnam.
Most of them want to become English teachers and some of them have never had a roommate before. All of them have done volunteer work on campus this semester, including working at a voter registration booth for last November’s presidential elections and at the Toros Homecoming game. They have been to a number of Southern California destinations, including Hollywood, the Getty Villa, Disneyland, City Walk and San Diego. At press time, the group was looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas.
“[This is] a good chance for me to experience the lifestyle here,” says Hue Nguyen, who at home in Vietnam majors in English at Angiang University. “I want to become a teacher. I wanted to study here to learn about different styles of teaching and learning ... so that I can apply that knowledge for my future career.”
Anong Sisongkhan, who studies English at the National University of Laos in Vientiane, has observed the difference between teacher-student relationships in the United States and in her native country.
“In my country, students are very shy to share ideas or speak in class,” she says. “But here, they share everything and the relationship between the professor and students is not really formal, it’s closer. You can make an appointment and maybe email or talk to teachers like friends, but we still respect them. It helps students who are shy or who are afraid of speaking up in class... to feel more comfortable.”
Soukkaseum Detvongsa, who is also from Laos, says that American professors give as much homework as he gets back home at American College, also in Vientiane. However, he appreciates the more casual lifestyle that American students enjoy, in everything from dress code to study habits.
“In my college, we have to wear uniforms to class,” he says. “We all have to wear the same thing, white and blue. I like the way people study here, because it’s independent, you can do whatever you want and learn better instead of following one rule.”
Cultural diversity, even among different Asian peoples, is something that the group has encountered. Detvongsa’s roommates are from China and Vietnam, while Sisongkhan shares a room with Nguyen.
“In my country, foreign students are mostly Vietnamese,” says Sisongkhan. “It’s not that hard for me to adapt to [Hue]. We come from different cultures, but they’re not that different. I’ve made friends here from Indonesia and the Philippines. Sometimes we talk about our culture and ask about each other’s religions. We learn and we share our cultures.”
Among the traditions that Sisongkhan learned about was Ramadan, the beginning of the new year on the Islamic calendar, during which the faithful perform charitable deeds. Sidrah Rachman, who attends Makassar State University in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a practicing Muslim. She says that CSUDH has been very hospitable to those who practice her religion.
“I’m lucky here because... California is a melting pot,” she notes. “There are many people like me.”
Rachman, who looks forward to a teaching career, says that in Indonesia, college students are also encouraged to do volunteer service in their senior year.
“As university students, we need to [not] only study but we have to give service to our country,” she says. “[Students] go to the isolated areas to help people. They go to the village and help the villagers to clean the village or to have sanitary... plumbing and bathrooms. In very poor areas, they don’t know what shampoo is. The students bring it and they teach them to use it. They teach the children how to read and write. They realize that education is important and that people in isolated areas need it more.”
Three additional students are attending CSUDH through the Fulbright Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, which is overseen by the campus’s American Language and Culture Program and World Learning, which is based in Washington D.C. They include Rini Mayasari from Sriwija University in Palembang, Indonesia; Galih Sriwardhani from the State University of Malang in Malang, Indonesia and Muhammad Hamza Eshmael from Mindanao State University in Marawi City in the Philippines.
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For more information about World Learning, click here.
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: International students volunteered at campus events this semester such as the men's soccer Homecoming
tournament on Oct. 15.
L-R: Soukhaseum Detvongsa, Galih Sriwadhani, Sidrah Rachma, Rini Mayasari, Hue Nguyen, Anong Sisongkham
and Muhammad Hamza Eshmael.
Courtesy of Muhammad Hamza Eshmael