Imagine sitting in lecture and hearing words you’ve never heard before, coming home and wondering what planet your roommates are from, and then partying it up because you decide its all too foreign to try and make sense of it all.
This may sound all too familiar to some of you – but mostly, it’s a feeling that’s compounded when you are a foreign student at UCSB.
Although the majority of international students here at UCSB are degree-seeking students – meaning they are here for all four years – there is a smaller group of international students that are here on a short-term basis. These students, who come through the Reciprocity Education Abroad Program (R.E.A.P.), are here from anywhere between a quarter and a year.
Presently, there are about 182 R.E.A.P. students here from over 20 countries who are adding a little spice to the student body at UCSB. The students sign up for their classes through GOLD, and are able to take classes in a variety of departments depending on their major or specialization back home and their interests.
Although they may be studying the same subject here, several students find that university life here is nothing like what they’re used to. The EAP office here helps the students get acquainted with the university.
“Students really take advantage of our services. I think it’s because there are a lot of complicated processes to go through in order to register for classes, find housing and so on,” EAP Peer Adviser Shelli McDowell said.
Academically speaking, several of the international students said there was much more day-to-day work at UCSB.
“Here I was surprised because you have homework during the week. I think the American system controls you more than my country does,” Italian student Giampaolo Albanese said.
Benjamin Chapelet, a 21-year-old biology student from France, said he also felt busier here.
“I study more here than in France. The students here look more stressed by school; I noticed they are more serious in their studies.”
This might lead you to believe that UCSB’s party-school reputation may have not yet reached the international level, but you’d be wrong.
Javier Ardiles, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student from Chile, said his friends told him about the advantages of the UCSB experience.
“That’s why I chose UC Santa Barbara instead of UCLA or UC Berkeley where I think you might find more serious people … I heard I would have more fun here.”
Mildly impressed by the bars, mostly due to the relatively early California 2:00 a.m. drinking cutoff laws, the R.E.A.P. students have said that it has taken a little time to get acquainted with the Isla Vista scene. They have had to learn the DP acronym, to carry their keg cups upside down and to step back when someone yells, “house cup!”
Roberto Cosas, a 24 year-old student from Spain, said the partying style in I.V. is a difference of cultures.
“I think we party differently in Spain. … Then we go to pubs or discos at 2 o’clock until 5 or 6 in the morning,” he said.
Chapelet seemed to enjoy DP life, saying, “It’s getting hot on DP; I’m gonna take my clothes off.”
Blanche T., a linguistics student from France, said she is surprised by a lot of the behavior in Isla Vista.
“The behavior of boys toward girls is a bit rude, and many people have a strange attitude toward alcohol. They make such a big deal about drinking here, but they can’t handle alcohol. Sometimes I find the atmosphere here really unhealthy,” she said.
But above all, the international students have noticed the realities of American conveniences.
“Everything is so much easier here – to rent a movie, to get food … everything is so well organized,” Sarah Ahssen, a 21-year-old student from France said. “It isn’t a big mess like in France.”
“American people have a very interesting notion of distance – if they say ‘No, no, it isn’t far, just three or four blocks away,’ expect to walk for a long time!” she said.
Despite these cultural snags, many of the students said they are very happy they decided to come to the U.S. and especially UCSB.