CAMERON ALFORD | STAFF REPORTER
Some say home is where the heart is.
For freshman Noemi Ponzoni, Butler University captured her heart.
Ponzoni, an international studies major, is from Milan, Italy.
Compared to schools in her country, “Butler feels a lot more like a community,” she said.
But Butler is not her first encounter with American culture. Ponzoni spent her junior year of high school in Indiana as an international exchange student.
She was part of a program called Youth For Understanding, an educational exchange program that allows students to live with a host family and attend a year of high school in the country they choose.
Her experience with American culture, specifically in Indiana, in high school helped her learn more about Butler. After graduating from high school in Italy, she applied to Butler and got accepted.
The freshman wasted no time getting immersed into Butler’s culture once she got here. She got involved in Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), International Club and Delta Delta Delta Sorority.
Ponzoni said she felt accepted since the first day.
“People are interested in my story,” she said.
For Dominic Wood, a sophomore history major from the United Kingdom, there is “a definite sense of community” at Butler.
The sophomore came to Butler during the fall semester of 2014, and plans to stay through the academic year.
Last semester, problems at home made him question whether or not he should come back for another semester.
Support from Butler students and the community of the Efroymson Diversity Center ultimately convinced Dominic to stay until the end of the spring 2015 semester.
Individuals such as Bobbie Gibson and Valerie Davidson, who Wood calls his “American mothers,” established the support system that successfully brought him through the fall semester.
The Diversity Center’s events, such as the New Orleans Volunteer Study Tour, made Butler feel like home because they allowed Wood to form long-lasting relationships with his fellow volunteers.
The sophomore says he has found “a big family” in the community at the Diversity Center.
Edwin Oey, a junior management information systems major from Jakarta, Indonesia, loves Butler for its open-mindedness.
Oey said, in his hometown, he often meets people who enjoy their personal space.
In Jakarta, “there is a strong barrier between people,” he said.
But at Butler, the junior has found plenty of people who are willing to help him understand and integrate into the culture.
When he is not studying, he is using residential halls and the Efroymson Diversity Center as platforms to go out and meet current students.
Oey said he is motivated to engage different people to help him see the world in a different perspective.
The junior comes from a country less diverse than the United States, he said. Indonesia is populated mostly by native Indonesians.
Coming to Butler and witnessing the different ethnic backgrounds has given him the chance to explore different viewpoints of the world.
All of these students agree that choosing to study abroad in a foreign place has its challenges.
Oey said he is happy to be taking advantage of the opportunity to study at Butler and experience a place and a culture he previously was not familiar with.
Though he has not been studying here long, Butler has already taught Oey to embrace his identity, something he hopes to continue incorporating into his daily routine when he returns to Indonesia.
Ultimately, Butler is a place where we can all learn to understand each other and our differences, Oey said.
What he loves most about the university is that it “feels like a family atmosphere,” he said. “It works here.”