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Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

UC Davis welcomes study abroad students from around the world

JAMIE CHEN / AGGIE

Students from other countries share their cowtown experiences

About an hour after the dishwasher was started, Dayoung Ryu wandered back into the kitchen to the shocking scene of foamy bubbles covering the ground, the soapy mound growing and growing with every passing minute.

“There [were] bubbles everywhere!” Ryu said. “It was like a pool of bubbles and it wouldn’t stop!”

Ryu is not used to dishwashers, something she says aren’t used in her home country. She had never operated one before coming to Davis, but quickly learned from the disastrous experience. Ryu is an international student from Seoul, South Korea, studying political science and international relations.

As UC Davis students we often hear about our fellow classmates jetting across the world on awesome study abroad adventures, but UC Davis is a popular study abroad location, too. There are more international students among the campus population than one might think, and they all have unique stories and experiences to share.  

“There were some [representatives] who came from UC Davis to advertise [about] the school, and they talked about how student-friendly, peaceful and quiet the environment was, so I got really interested in that,” Ryu said. “I really like the safety and quietness of this town, [and] how people are super friendly.”

Ryu has noticed a few differences between her home university and UC Davis, one being the variety of food options such as those for vegans and vegetarians, something that’s nearly impossible to do in Korea. The other is the competitiveness of club sports.

“I did cross country and basketball back in my country but it wasn’t like anything like this,” Ryu said. “I didn’t know that students considered athletics really important. They take it really seriously and I think students here in general work out more.”

Despite these differences, Ryu mentions that she feels satisfied with her experience so far at Davis.

“I’m really happy that I chose UC Davis,” Ryu said. “Some people might say it’s a boring town, but for me I’m in a new environment and here I feel like I’m discovering myself more.”

The small-town college vibe is appealing to many students who come here to study abroad, often from big cities themselves, like Shannon Smyth, a study abroad student from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

“Although Edinburgh is a lot more busy, I came to Davis to have a different experience,” Smyth said. “I kind of liked the idea of a small college town but with a very big university community because I thought that would be the best combination, but there’s going to be lots of people for me to meet, and it’s going to be a community that’s quite diverse.”

Smyth, a third-year English and history double major, is staying in Davis for a full year and is already noticing the little differences in her new life.

“It’s the little things that make a big difference,” Smyth said. “Like I can’t do mental math, so figuring out prices, the exchange rate, something as simple as that takes me much longer now. I don’t really call where I’d go to the toilet a ‘bathroom’ I’d just call it the toilet, or I’m going to the loo.”

However minor these semantics, Smyth embraces what these differences give her — the chance to meet new people.

Another study abroad student who can attest to this observation is Angela Yu, a third-year journalism student from Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Yu said that she has bonded with her roommates in her apartment off campus, who she gets to speak her native language with and who also transport her around Davis and the local area. Living in a spacious apartment, especially one with a kitchen, is something starkly different than her experience in Beijing, where students live in cramped living quarters.  

“I finally get to cook, and it’s really exciting,” Yu said. “Most of us get a certain degree of freedom when we go to a university, but here [at Davis] it’s really like ‘oh my god I’m building a life out here’ and you get to arrange everything however you like.”

The people and living situations aren’t the only obvious differences between UC Davis and other universities around the world. Romy Chaib, a third-year international agriculture and development major at UC Davis, has noticed that the academic system here offers more freedom to students, giving them the chance to explore and challenge themselves.

“The system is better here, because you get to choose the courses that interest you,” said Chaib. “In France you have to take [major classes], and you have no choice. It’s better here because it’s more interesting and they encourage you to participate in class too.”

Chaib is from Lebanon, but moved to France for university when she was 18. She chose her university with very specific criteria in mind: that it had an exchange program with the universities in California.

“UC Davis [is] probably the best school for agriculture in the states, so that’s why I was like ‘ok this is going to be the one,’” Chaib said. “[I chose] international agriculture and development because I’m really interested in combining agriculture, traveling, and helping people, so it’s the perfect major.”

Although Chaib is only supposed to be here for one quarter, she wants to try to extend her study abroad experience. She has had many positive experiences that have made her feel at home.

“People are so nice here,” Chaib said. “I’ve only been here for three weeks, and I feel like I’ve lived here my whole life.”

One study abroad student who feels acclimated to the American university culture is Per Quast, a political and media sciences and sociology triple major, who comes from Dusseldorf, Germany.

“[I] only [live with] Americans,” Quast said. “I always wanted to do that, because if you live with people from your native country, at some point you just start talking in your native language. German people tell me I’ve picked up an accent, but I don’t think so.”

California was a top priority on Quasts’ list. When he had the choice between American National University in Washington, D.C. and UC Davis, both of which were in a partnership with his university, the choice was simple.

Quast noticed right away how embedded UC Davis is within the community, mentioning that he even had the option to get a debit card with the UC Davis logo on it when he first opened a bank account here. The small town feeling, the Saturday night football games and everything else that accompanies being an Aggie are why he already enjoys it here.

“Yeah [I’ve] definitely [found a community here],” Quast said. “I would come back every year and maybe even live here. It will be a place I’ll always remember.”

Written by: Marlys Jeane — features@theaggie.org

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