What's it like to move to America? We asked six foreign students.

Author: Dana Drysdale and Brie Bahe

What's it like to move to America? We asked six foreign students.

What is the biggest cultural or language challenge you have faced in the US and/or at Notre Dame?


“English is one of the official languages, so in my town we speak English. But talking speed is a challenge. During class, sometimes the professor speaks so fast that I cannot understand. But when I ask him questions, he says that I speak too fast!”

-Kennedy Masiye, Zimbabwe

Masters in International Human Rights (LLM)

“As an international student, people [back home] think you will learn more and better English, but as an international student, I mostly end up talking to other non-standard English speakers. I’m not sure if my English got worse or better this year.”

-Heemang Kim, South Korea

Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship

“I guess mostly the party culture. At first I thought in order to adapt to the American culture I have to go to parties to make friends. But not after long I just realized that lots of Americans actually don’t go to parties. Even if at parties my friends don’t force me to drink which is very nice. In addition, here at school it was kind of overwhelming at the first year orientation week with all those activities going on, and I find it easier for me to make friends actually after the class begins.”

-Kangxin (Catherine) Wu, China

“Probably grammar? It is difficult for me because Chinese grammar is relatively easy and we don’t conjugate verbs or differentiate pronouns of he/ she/it.”

-Xin Shen, China

Accounting & Japanese

“The biggest cultural challenge I faced was that people were very upfront. Sometimes I found it to be too blunt or straight forward that it felt rude. I also found the tipping culture to be very odd in the beginning. That just felt like another type of hidden cost, just like hidden tax.”

-Inhye Choi, South Korea

Senior, Marketing 

“There was definitely a big difference between my time at ND as an undergrad and now, maybe because I knew what to expect in terms of culture--although culture shock is a very real thing especially when you are 18 years old. That said, I think the hardest part was cultural references. I didn’t know a lot of songs, and people seemed to quote lines from movies I’d never heard of, like Monty Python and the Princess Bride. I didn’t always understand everything that happened in a conversation with my American friends.”

-Alexandra Boedwig, El Salvador

Masters of Business Administration (MBA)