The Brightest Orange, Through a New Lens
By: Konnor Smith
Have you ever been curious about the differences and similarities in how international students and American students experience college? I had the privilege of interviewing Margaret Elizabeth Saunders, also known as Mags, who came all the way from England to attend school here at Oklahoma State University. She is from a town on a peninsula called West Kirby and is a junior majoring in psychology.
Where exactly are you from?
“I’m from a town on a peninsula called West Kirby. It’s a little seaside town 30 minutes south of Liverpool. It’s about a two-hour train north of London."
Tell me about your hometown. If I came to visit you, where in your hometown would you take me? What would you show me?
“My hometown is a little town right on the beach. You can do water sports there so we could go paddleboarding or windsurfing! There’s also a bike trail that runs along the coastal path so we could bike and BBQ at the country park. My town is only 30 minutes away from the big city of Liverpool so I would take you there to see where the Beatles started!”
What do your parents do for a living?
“My mum is a piano teacher and my dad was an IT solutions engineer, but he is now an exam invigilator.”
Do you have any siblings? If so, tell me about them?
“I have an older brother and a younger sister. My sister is still in school and my brother is working around Europe on tour. My brother likes to travel a lot so I love seeing all the places he gets to visit!”
Has it been difficult adjusting to being away from your family?
“It hasn’t been too difficult, as I have been away from them before while I was at school in the UK. But, I do miss my mum. I think because it’s so much further away. I get to call her and talk to her lots, though.”
How often do you get to go home and see them?
“I will go home at Christmas and then at the end of the year, but my mum is coming to visit for Homecoming in October!”
Why did you want to study in the U.S.?
“I always wanted to study in the U.S. because I’ve always loved the vibe of the USA. I worked as a camp counselor in Pennsylvania two years ago and fell in love with the U.S. I knew wanted to come back to actually live here for longer than just the summer and I always wanted to be in a sorority, so I thought to experience the USA through school would be the best way!”
Why did you choose Oklahoma State University?
“My school in the UK has a partnership with OSU and New Mexico State University where you can do a study abroad year. I chose OSU because it looked like so much fun! I also found out after I had chosen OSU that a family I used to baby-sit for in the UK is originally from Edmond and all studied at OSU many years ago! They knew I’d love it here.”
What is one difference between education at home and education in America?
“There are so many differences! At home, your major is your entire degree so you don’t have any General Education classes. All your classes are about your major and all your classes apart from one or two per semester are chosen and scheduled for you. We also have much bigger class sizes. At home, all my classes have around 200 people in them.”
“The assessment is the biggest difference though. Each of my classes will have one piece of coursework and one exam that makes up your entire grade and there are no make-ups if you don’t do well. Having regular tests and homework assignments is very different to me as I am used to one huge assignment and exam at the end of the semester.”
How did you get to school back home?
“I walked to school back home because I lived on my school's campus so everything was really close by. I also walked to my high school as it was only a 10-minute walk from my house.”
In ten years, where would you like to be living and what would you like to be doing?
"I would love to be living in the USA doing something related to Psychology. I’m not sure where in the U.S. though or what job exactly.”
Do you ever feel out of place? Or do you feel like you are at home here?
“No, I feel totally at home here. I’ve been accepted and welcomed in completely.”
What weird words or slang have you heard people using around campus?
“There are so many new words! Someone taught me what 'bet' means the other day and 'no cap.'”
What is it like being in a sorority as a foreign student?
“It’s an amazing experience. I had no preconceived ideas of what being in a sorority would be like as they don’t exist in England so I was totally new coming in. I think the sorority experience as a whole is the same for me being an international student, but the difference between being an international student not involved in Greek life compared to being in a sorority as an international student is completely different. I wanted to be in a sorority as I wanted to make sure I got to meet lots of different people and be fully involved on campus. I love sorority life so much and feel so lucky to be a part of it.”
What does your makeup/hair routine consist of at home?
“Honestly, I don’t have one. I just brush my hair and occasionally straighten or curl it if I’m going somewhere nice or want to switch it up a bit! I usually don’t wear makeup for school but if I’m going somewhere I’ll put on foundation, bronzer and mascara.”
How does your clothing differ here from at home?
“Clothing is really different here but I think that’s mainly because it’s so hot here. At home, it’s only hot enough to wear shorts for maybe two weeks during the summer so we don’t wear t-shirts and shorts that much. People wear leggings to class a lot but the usual outfits people wear every day are jeans and sweatshirts.”
What is your go-to outfit?
“My go-to outfit at home is high-waisted jeans and a top and probably a sweatshirt because it’s usually quite cold.”
How does your diet differ here from back home?
“I eat so much more here! The snacks here are way better, but everything is a lot more sugary! In the UK we have a sugar tax so any food or drink that has added sugar in it has an extra tax on top of the price so sugary snacks are way more expensive. My diet is different for eating out too because the only fast food places we have in the UK that are the same as in the U.S. are McDonald's and Burger King. Most of our places for eating out are restaurants that each serve a different type of European food. Here, I eat fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast and whatever is on the menu for lunch and dinner. As a snack, I’ll usually eat cereal or trail mix. I LOVE caramel M&Ms though, we can’t get them in the U.K.! At home, I’ll snack on Galaxy chocolate which is the same as Dove chocolate.”
How does social media use compare here to at home?
“I would say it’s the same. We use Instagram and Snapchat a lot in the UK.”
What do you do in your spare time here?
“I hang out with my friends in the house. At the moment, I’m being introduced to all the best U.S. TV shows. "Bachelor in Paradise" is my current favorite!”
What would you do with your spare time back at home?
“I would do the same things in my spare time at home because I was living on a college campus similar to here. But in the school vacations, my friends and I would go for brunch a lot. This summer I spent a lot of time in London at the weekend with my friends going for food, shopping or biking around the London parks.”
What is the normal thing to do to hang out with friends? Where are popular places to hang out?
“People go to the cinema a lot or will go and get coffee with their friends or go to the shopping malls. The UK also has a lot of green space so it’s common to hang out in a park or have a picnic.”
What part of your culture would you like to share with Americans?
“Cadbury’s chocolate! Chocolate in the UK is so different from US chocolate, it’s super creamy and there are so many different types! Our food, in general, is very different, our specialty is English Afternoon Tea. Afternoon tea is breakfast tea with miniature cakes and pastries, it’s so good.”
When talking to an international student, you will find that you are much more alike than you expected, and you will learn from their differences. Mags brings light to every room that she walks in to, and is a great friend and sister to so many in her sorority. I challenge you to take the time to get to know an international student.
Photos by: Maggie Berry