Clemson is home even when you’re far away from home
Office of Creative Services
To most of us, Clemson is a place we call home. The familiar chime of Tillman’s bells and the buzz in the air during football season are nothing out of the ordinary. But for a small portion of Clemson’s student body, this university is far from familiar.
Young minds from all over the world come to our college town in South Carolina to study at Clemson. Most of them don’t have cars, some have never been to the United States and others still don’t quite understand the concept of tailgating. But if you sit down with international students and ask how they feel on Clemson’s campus, you will find that they might be calling it “home.”
Gianluca Raucci, an exchange student from Glasgow, Scotland, sits with his friends on Bowman Field under the shade of one of Clemson’s old trees. They have come from all over the world, no two with the same accent or dress style. They make fun of each other — one’s always fashionably late and another still hasn’t figured out exactly where Tillman Hall is. Most have only been here since August, but it’s as if they’ve been friends for ages. “Clemson is the place to be,” Raucci said.
Clemson’s student exchange program brings about 100 students from more than 20 countries here each year. Through exchange agreements with international universities, a student from Clemson packs up and heads to a foreign country, trading places with an international student who will be dropped down in Clemson. Most of Clemson’s 1,200 international students are from about 90 countries and come here to pursue graduate degrees.
“The exchange programs at Clemson are such a great asset for our students. Not only do our incoming students help to diversify and internationalize our campus, but they are also a great resource for Clemson students looking to globalize their Clemson career,” said Meredith Wilson, a study abroad adviser in the Office of International Affairs.
Not to mention, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An international student can meet not only someone from the U.S., but also from France, Hungary, Australia, Spain and many other countries.
Whether these international students are here for a semester or a year on exchange or for longer getting a graduate degree, their experience is one vastly different from college life at home. Raucci describes his Clemson experience with one word — “fantastic!”
Coming from cold, rainy Scotland, Raucci enjoys the South Carolina heat. He also likes the campus setup.
“The campus is great, and there is definitely a family-oriented atmosphere,” Raucci said.
Before coming to Clemson, Raucci wanted to attend an American university in a city. The program at his university in Scotland, University of Strathclyde, allows students embarking on an exchange program to select three American universities, and they are placed in one. Along with Clemson, Raucci chose Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Clemson was selected for him, and although it differs from the city life he sought, he has gotten used to the small town ambience.
“Clemson has a college town feel where everyone is very friendly. It’s nice that someone is always willing to give me a ride to the Walmart,” Raucci said.
Clemson also has something that Raucci’s home university didn’t have: school spirit. Compared to Scotland’s Strathclyde, where the student body doesn’t normally add school T-shirts to their wardrobe, Clemson has the feel of a place where people belong.
“You can tell that everyone is happy to be here,” he said.
Raucci currently lives in the Cultural Exchange Community (CEC), a living-learning community located in Calhoun Courts residence hall that provides the opportunity for American students to live with international exchange students. The CEC exists to unite international students with each other and with their Clemson peers. Raucci currently shares a room with an American roommate and an exchange student from Belgium.
“The CEC is a great support network. You get to meet students from all over the place,” Raucci said.
The CEC is another example of how international students help broaden the undergraduate experience for Clemson students. Raucci’s new friends range from Spain to Australia. They are all here on exchange, seeing the U.S. through the scope of Clemson’s campus, meeting people from all over the world and learning all the things they have in common. For instance, a lot of his friends speak Italian, and most find Australian accents funny.
Yunsik Choi, a graduate student from South Korea, says he would recommend Clemson to any of his friends looking to obtain a master’s degree abroad. Choi is currently getting his master’s in marketing and calls the academic program one of the best.
What does Choi really love about Clemson? Watching the Tigers play in Death Valley. “Before I came to Clemson, I didn’t know how to watch football, but my friends taught me, and now I love it. People get so crazy over it, but I can understand why.”
Football doesn’t get much attention in South Korea, and neither does Clemson. Only 1 percent of international students at Clemson are from South Korea. Choi hopes to change this statistic.
“One day I hope to set up an exchange program between my university and Clemson. People should know about it,” he said.
Choi and Raucci would both highly recommend studying abroad to their peers back home.
“It’s a great life experience,” Raucci said. “You make friends all around the world.”
For students like Raucci and Choi, making American friends has proven to be easy at Clemson. Not only are their peers willing to teach them the ways of football and give them a lift to buy groceries, but the atmosphere filled with Clemson pride makes them proud to be here.
“This is a globally connected world. It’s hard to go anywhere and not see people from other countries,” said Teresa Wise, the executive director of international programs. Interacting with people of different walks of life not only helps improve one’s collegiate experience, but it helps life after college. “Being intercultural is vital in the professional world.”
When Raucci sits with his friends from the CEC, a mixture of accents can be heard as they talk about their plans for the weekend and the stresses of keeping up with dorm room keys. But their accents disappear when they laugh together.
They’ve come from far and wide, and they’ll eventually return home with only a memory of their time here. But it’s a life-changing experience none will forget.
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