International students at BYU-Idaho face difficulties in adapting to American culture and language, said Greg Hazard, director of the Academic Support Center.
Hazard said English 109 is a course designed to help international students become more familiar with academic writing in English.
“They are coming, first of all, to a new culture with a different language, but they are also starting college for the first time in a different country,” Hazard said.
Hazard has been teaching English 109 for 18 years. He said he loves teaching international students.
“I always tell my wife I get to go all over the world and never leave Rexburg,” Hazard said.
Hazard said sometimes the BYU-I education system is different from those of the countries international students come from. He said not only are they adjusting to a new language and American culture, but they are also adjusting to the school culture and its environment.
“Sometimes they don’t know how to deal with teachers because the relationships between a student and a teacher in America are often different than the relationships between a student and a teacher in their country,” Hazard said. “For example, sometimes they are shy of asking teachers questions because in some countries that shows disrespect.”
Tiago Vidigal, an alumnus from Brazil, said he did not know anything about the American university system when he arrived at BYU-I. He said he wishes there were videos explaining the first things international students are supposed to do when they arrive.
“Sometimes they’re out in an apartment with four or five American students, and they don’t know how to interact with their roommates,” Hazard said.
Klleber Oliveira, an alumnus from Brazil, said he did not know how Americans would react to jokes and was not sure about how to greet Americans when he first arrived at BYU-I.
Hazard said there are three distinct groups of friends international students should be involved with in order to be successful: people from their own country, if there are any; other international students because, no matter what country they are from, they understand the process of getting a visa, the struggles of learning a language and the sacrifices made to move to another country; and American friends so they can better learn the new culture and language.
Hazard said some students find a large community of people from their own country and do not socialize with American students. He said students who have the chance of speaking English more frequently learn it faster.
Hazard said international students face what he calls “the adjustment line.” The “honeymoon” occurs right when they arrive, and everything is new and exciting. The cultural shock comes after, bringing some isolation. International students live with those ups and downs, which tend to balance with time.
André Lima, a sophomore from Brazil studying mechanical engineering, said Rexburg is a wonderful place for his children, and he loves to live next to the temple.
Lima and his wife were living in married student housing when they had their third baby. She had no one from her family to help, but she said she was amazed by the willingness of people to help her by bringing dinner while she was recovering.
“Once they adjust, they like it,” Hazard said. “They thrive. They are very good at it. They have made sacrifices to be here, and they know why they are here.”