By Linda Smith
A & E Editor
Guatemala city native and senior economics and finance major Elisa Minondo has experienced the culture of the United States alongside that of her home country for her whole life. The differences between her small home country and the U.S. are insurmountable, ranging from the sizes of the countries to the opportunities afforded.
“[Growing up I] was always hanging out with my cousins,” Minondo said. “We would go to the beach together and I have a lot of cousins, so it’s always a very loud crowd. There’s always something going on, someone getting in trouble, someone getting hurt. It’s kind of what defines a family trip. If someone doesn’t get hurt, it’s a success. We’re a very close-together-knit (sic) group so we’ve always done things together. You see through our pictures, we’re always going everywhere.”
Previous University of Dallas admissions counselor Andrea Chapa visited Minondo’s high school during her senior year. Minondo remembers her as “super passionate,” which only helped to attract Minondo to UD.
“I always wanted to study abroad,” Minondo said. “That was definitely something that I considered when actually deciding on schools. At UD, I liked the people, the atmosphere. I liked that it was in a city. I met with Andrea Chapa and with other UD students from Guatemala and I think that ended up convincing me about UD. I also liked that it was a smaller, very community-oriented kind of school.”
Transitioning to life in the U.S., however, introduced Minondo more fully to the differences in the two cultures.
“We’ve always traveled to the States, but it’s different traveling for vacation or traveling with people who also speak Spanish or road-tripping across the U.S. with your family than actually living here and experiencing the culture instead of just seeing it, I think that’s one of the harder parts,” Minondo said. “Transitioning from the way you see the world to a different way of seeing the world, I think that’s one of the harder parts and being able to deal with that difference and how people react to those things or how people think of things.
Minondo also described the differences in American attitudes to other cultures.
“I think I grew up in a way with a bigger view of the world. I’ve traveled; we’ve always been exposed to Guatemala, which has a wide array of people. We’ve grown up exposed to that, and so coming to a place where people are very into their own world, like ‘the U.S. is my center of the universe,’ that narrow-mindedness was a hard thing for me.”
Nonetheless, Minondo has found living in the U.S. to be a rewarding experience. “You meet a lot of people because it’s such a big country. You get a little bit of everything even if you’re [at] a small school like UD. Learning about people and learning how to deal with another culture teaches you how the real world is. That change taught me how to deal with people and I think that’s very rewarding.”
Minondo is also an international studies concentration, which she feels adds to her appreciation of both countries.
“Being an international student adds to my international studies concentration because I grew up learning about how American intervention has influenced my country and then learning the U.S. side of the diplomatic intervention is awesome because I have both sides of the story,” Minondo said. “It also benefits that as an international student that (sic) is also an American citizen I have been able to gain a global perspective towards what I have studied. I have been able to apply what I have learned from both the U.S. environment and the Guatemalan environment.”
Sophomore business major Cedric Ranaivo moved a few times as a child as well. Ranaivo was born in France, and grew up for eight years in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, before moving back to France. He then moved to California to attend a high school where he could play basketball.
“In Madagascar, I felt more free as a child,” Ranaivo said. “I would run, we had a lot of swimming pools, we had the sea right next to us, the weather was on point every time. I could just run everywhere and my first sport was motocross. Sometimes on the weekends I would take it and just go and get lost to find new landscape. That was great.”
Junior business major Luke Christianson is a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He had two sisters who attended UD, and was drawn to the possibilities the school offered.
“I really liked the idea of getting away from home for a while, but at a school that would challenge my quality in more ways than academics,” Christianson said. “Additionally, the prospect of playing college level soccer appealed to me. When I visited UD I was really impressed by the people, and the social life was attractive.”
Christianson has only found difficulties in “the logistics” of being a non-resident, and otherwise likes being in the U.S.
“Everyday things like getting a bank account, registering a car/purchasing car insurance and travel to and from America [are] a bit of a hassle,” Christianson said. “Besides that, America is very welcoming of foreign students, particularly Canadians. One rewarding aspect of being an international student is the small social bump it gives you; people want to know about me because I’m not from here!”
Christianson also expressed American attitudes toward his Canadian identity.
“There is definitely an inclination to overlook Canada’s individualism,” Christianson said. “While Canadian culture is similar in many ways to American culture, there are some significant differences that I believe can strongly distinguish the two cultures. I feel that it isn’t too difficult to integrate into American culture as an outsider coming in, but I encourage Americans to keep in mind the authenticity and value of visitors’ cultures, and maybe try to learn more about them!”