With a record number of international students at Truman State, the Center for International Students has more responsibilities than ever to help these students adjust to life in America.
The CIS offers a variety of services to help the 419 international students at Truman adjust to life in the residence halls, academics, and their initial arrival in Kirksville and America in general.
CIS assistant director Melanee Crist said the number of international students at Truman has more than doubled during the past eight years.
“Everybody is going to have more of an opportunity to interact with international students and get to know them,” Crist said. “They’ll be in most classes and residence halls. I think it’s very important that people take advantage of this, and get to know international students and learn from them. This is a great benefit to the University.”
Senior Ryo Matsuda of Japan said the CIS helped her adjust to life in America through social events the center planned. Matsuda said these events helped her meet with other students and make friends.
Truman alumna Thilini Weerawarnasuriya, who is from Sri Lanka, said she worked at the CIS for three years before graduating during May. She said adjusting to life in America was not as difficult for her as for some international students, because she grew up in the United Arab Emirates, a country with many immigrants, but there were still challenges.
Two challenges Weerawarnasuriya said she faced were learning American slang words and getting used to the fast-paced speed at which Americans talk.
Now my ears are trained to it,” Weerawarnasuriya said. “I remember when I first got here, I was sitting in my business law class, and my professor was talking, and I couldn’t keep up. He would say one sentence, and I was still processing what he had said, and he was on to the fifth sentence already. I was about to cry.
Weerawarnasuriya said while adjusting to these changes took time, making friends helped. She said she worked to make American friends, not just other international students, so she could learn more about U.S. culture.
Weerawarnasuriya said the CIS also helped her adjust to life in America. She said the staff is good at understanding the perspective of international students, even though the staffers are American.
“They are really passionate about actually helping us as opposed to just being an office that’s there,” Weerawarnasuriya said.
Weerawarnasuriya said one of her favorite programs offered by the CIS is International Friends. She said this program matches Kirksville families with Truman’s international students so the student has a “family” in town, and everyone involved can learn more about different cultures.
While each family and student’s situation is different, Weerawarnasuriya said she became close to the family she was matched with. She said these families can help students make memories they are not able to experience in their home countries.
“We don’t have fall in Sri Lanka or the U.A.E.,” Weerawarnasuriya said. “I know it seems stupid, but I always wanted to jump into a pile of leaves. My first Thanksgiving, I got to do that”.
Weerawarnasuriya said even after living in the U.S. for three years, she is not completely accustomed to American culture. She said it is hard for her to get used to the outspokenness of Americans because people in Sri Lanka are not as direct.
“No matter how long you’re here, you can never completely adjust,” Weerawarnasuriya said. “You still have your roots.”