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Impressions of America

Food, traffic, accents -- student-athletes from other nations share their observations

By PHYLISHA DRAYTON / VN STAFF WRITER
On February 21, 2017

Many Americans don’t recognize the things that make their country distinct or unusual.

To those from other nations, however, such differences stand out.

Detroit Mercy hosts many students who aren’t Americans.

The Varsity News spoke to a sample of them, and they expressed a variety of impressions. But the one thing that they all agreed was that in America food is cheaper, unhealthier and served in larger portions.

Patryk Koscielski, a senior software engineering major, said his first impression of America was seeing empty streets and of needing a car to go everywhere.

Koscielski is from London, England, where people are busier and walk everywhere, he said.

He noted that America is the first place he has been with pharmacies that sell alcohol and have drive-thru windows.

Adjusting hasn’t been too difficult for Koscielski, because he moved from Poland to England before coming to America.

Others have faced greater challenges.

Guillermo Potti, a junior civil engineering major, is a native of Madrid, Spain. He described his first impression of America as of being spread out.

The thing that stands out the most to Potti, though, is the way people think and treat each other.

He believes that people are more reserved and more likely to approach things from only their own perspective.

“I am in a different country studying and living,” said Potti. “Most people here are actually from the U.S., but they don’t consider or understand how I feel sometimes.”

Potti most appreciates America’s economy. People who work hard here get rewarded for it, he said.

Nathan Ponton comes from Victoria, Australia.

He has found people ruder than in his native country, where they are more polite and talkative, he said.

Fashions are different, as well.

“People dress a little funny here to me,” said Ponton. “Girls dress very similar to home, but guys always seem to be in clothes two sizes too big.”

For Ponton, a junior business law major, the colder weather and the vocabulary have taken some getting used to, but the harder thing has been creating a completely new life for himself.

One bonus has been a faster internet; he sees it as fast even when it’s considered slow to Americans.

Kevin Tapchom, a junior computer science major from the African nation of Cameroon, explained that upon arriving here, he noticed that the infrastructure was a lot more organized and modern – everything from airports to roads and buildings.

The most difficult thing for him has been the people and environment.

“I had always lived around Africans and it was kind of weird to now be around people of all races,” said Tapchom. “Although people here were very friendly, it was difficult to adapt to a different language and different culture.”

Some international students don’t live as far as Africa, Australia or Europe, but they still experience the differences.

Many Detroit Mercy students come from Canada, which is similar to America.

The Canadians interviewed agreed that the hardest thing to get used to was the notion of not having free healthcare for everyone.

To Chloe Ricciardi, a sophomore social work major from Kirkland, Quebec, people here seem a lot more laid back and not so rushed.

The most difficult things for Ricciardi have been the distinct Michigan accents and Michigan left turns.

For Kelly-Ann Catarina-Hilario, a freshman communications major from Blainville, Quebec, the greater variety of stores and restaurants has been obvious.

She also has noticed Americans’ distinct verbal mannerisms, like saying “yup” instead of “thank you” in certain occasions.

She has found that people here are very patriotic and proud, though some live life in a bubble.

Even closer, from Cambridge, Ontario, is senior criminal justice major Aubrey Formica.

Her first impression was that Canadian roads were smoother than Michigan roads.

Formica has found Americans to be less polite than Canadians – but that their taxes are lower.

For most students interviewed, the differences are seen as part of a learning experience and a widening their own perspectives. 

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