Dawgs gone global

International students arrive from all over the world to study at Butler, often on the recommendation of a friend. Photo courtesy of Getty Photos.

JACK WILLIAMS | STAFF REPORTER | jrwilliams@butler.edu 

The meaning of home changes from person to person. It can be defined by places such as town and country or people such as friends and family. While the transition from one home to another can be scary, Butler students often take pride in how they turn campus into their own community. 

This is doubly true for international students, who are diving into a new culture and style of education. The three international students that The Butler Collegian interviewed enjoy and critique elements of campus life that many students may take for granted out of familiarity. This fresh perspective can help all students appreciate their time at Butler and in the Indianapolis community. 

Ruben Rijpsma 

Rijpsma spends his free time playing Ultimate Frisbee and watching movies, especially those directed by Christopher Nolan. Photo by Natalie Goo.

Ruben Rijpsma, a junior humanities major from the Netherlands, has enjoyed experiencing an American university with an unbiased gaze. He intentionally did minimal research before he studied abroad, in order to avoid creating unrealistic expectations. However, an expectation that did come true was the prominence of sports on college campuses. Rijpsma has gotten involved in the sports scene himself by joining the Ultimate Frisbee club

“It’s awesome to see so many people playing sports and getting scholarships to both study and play at university,” Rijpsma said. “It’s something you wouldn’t see at home.” 

Rijpsma was unsure of what career he wanted at first, so he entered his home university’s liberal arts and sciences program in order to give himself a broad range of options. The program taught him how to think critically and now he hopes to be a history teacher. Studying abroad has contributed to expanding his horizons. 

“Studying to get my degree is important, but it is also important to learn [about yourself],” Rijpsma said. “It’s important to grow as a person here, to be more social, and to learn how to live on your own. It takes a lot of responsibility.” 

It takes an open mindset to get the most out of studying abroad, just like it does with any other course of study. Learning how to be curious and ask questions about the world around you is as equally important as obtaining a major, perhaps more so. 

Rijpsma enjoys critical thinking in his personal life as well through Christopher Nolan films such as “Inception”. The more that a film pushes the limits of human imagination, the better. His personal and academic desire to challenge preconceived ideas colors how he views his time at Butler. Rijpsma hopes to keep exploring American culture and to learn all he can while in the country.

Helena Griffith 

Griffith’s hobbies include reading and spending time outdoors. Photo by Natalie Goo.

Helena Griffith, a junior psychology major from Wales, chose to study abroad at Butler after a friend recommended it. She enjoyed that Butler has a smaller campus because it made for an easier transition from her home college, the University of Chester

“That’s why I settled in so much quicker here,” Griffith said. “It didn’t feel like I was one in a thousand. There’s a big sense of community here.” 

Griffith’s interest in psychology is fueled by a desire to understand how people think and behave. This influenced how she approached her time at Butler. Meeting American students gave her an opportunity to apply her analytical skills to a new culture. She appreciates how welcoming American students have been, as well as the friendships she has made with fellow international students. 

“I like the welcome that you get at Butler,” Griffith said. “Everyone is fascinated when you say you’re an international student. I think that’s nice [in comparison to when] people aren’t bothered where you’re from, especially if you’re at a bigger school. It’s a nice introduction to U.S. culture.” 

Griffith moved in early before the main student body for orientation. She had meetings with departments ranging from the Butler University Police Department to the Irwin Library. Additionally, Diversity Ambassadors (DAs), who help international students transition to living on an American campus, have been there to answer any questions she might have. By the time her roommate moved in, Griffith felt that she had the same level of knowledge about campus as her. 

The most important part of orientation to her is that it provided motivation to go out and explore rather than stay in her dorm. 

“It’s so much better when you can talk to someone else,” Griffith said. “One day [the international students] all looked where our classes were before they started. It makes it so much easier when you can share the experience with someone.”

Marco Maceri 

Maceri has lived in Spain, Italy and Germany. Photo by Natalie Goo.

Marco Maceri, a graduate student studying economics for his Masters of Business Administration, has filled his university years with travel. He was born in Spain, earned his undergraduate degree in Italy at the University of Bologna and traveled to Germany to begin his master’s. One of his strengths is his ability to smoothly transition between countries and cultures. 

“At the beginning, it was a little tough, but I adapted very well,” Maceri said. “I am able to speak to a lot of people without any problems. This is what really pushed me to try new experiences. For example, in the U.S. I [am] comfortable with [a wide variety of] people and subjects.” 

This skill set has been beneficial in adjusting to American-style education. Many European universities would be considered traditional from an American standpoint. Professors teach with blackboards and focus on theoretical knowledge more than specific job skills. 

Maceri is used to taking in-depth classes that are outside his major at a frequency not found in Butler’s core curriculum. Butler’s classes follow a more structured pipeline. They tend to narrow in subject matter and focus on specialized skills for specific jobs, while Maceri’s classes in Europe focused on broadening his knowledge base. 

At times, Maceri has been frustrated with having to learn subjects that are unrelated to his future goals, but he ultimately appreciates all the different ideas he has been exposed to. 

“We are raised [into] the way that our society works,” said Maceri. “I’m not saying one is better [than another]. Each person, depending on the way [they have] lived, might choose one path or another. I believe there are differences, and I enjoy both of them.” 

For Maceri, the biggest culture shock has been the food. He enjoys Atherton’s waffles and syrup, which are uncommon in Italy. However, he was unprepared for the normalization of pineapple on pizza, which is controversial even in America. 

“If you eat pineapple on pizza in Italy, they will glare at you,” Maceri said. “[What you put on pizza] is a way of living in Italy. I’m not that picky [though]. It’s funny to see all these differences; I’m not going to judge at all.” 

The common thread among all three international students was their willingness to not only live in a new country but to engage with it. They went out of their way to search for people and places that could teach them about American culture. Whether a student studies abroad or stays at home, an open mindset and a desire to understand others will take them far.


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