Ploenes from Germany residing in the Netherlands. Photo by Ahmed Al Sakkaf

International students first few days in the U.S.


As the spring semester approached, Humboldt State University welcomed new foreign exchange students. Archana Nihalani from Pakistan and Gereon Ploenes from Germany are two of the new incoming students. Nihalani came from Hyderabad, a city located in the Sindh province of Pakistan, and Ploenes came from Nijmegen, a city in the Dutch province of Gelderland where he resides. Both had stories to tell about their first few days in the U.S. before the spring semester started.

Nihalani thinks that people are too polite.

Archana Nihalani from Pakistan. Photo by Ahmed Al Sakkaf

“People here say thank you a lot and sorry a lot,” Nihalani said. “A lot of times and I’m not used for this.”

Saying thank you and sorry too much is considered a very formal behavior in Pakistan, according to Nihalani. It may mean that a person has too many boundaries.

“Here [U.S.], if you don’t say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry,’ it’s rude,’ Nihalani said. “But there [Pakistan], it’s rude if you say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ all the time, because it means that you’re being too much formal.”

Nihalani described food to be her worst struggle. She thinks the food here is too plain and lacks flavor.

“Food here is plain,” Nihalani said. “I’m not used to eating plain food with no flavors… it’s too plain. In Pakistan, we put so such spices in food, so many flavors.”

Nihalani thinks that people here in the U.S. have more personal space than their counterparts in Pakistan. She also notices that people here are easily offended.

“People here [U.S.] have so much personal space and there [Pakistan] we don’t have so much personal space,” Nihalani said. “Everything here offends people I don’t know why? They get offended very easily.”

Ploenes from Germany residing in the Netherlands. Photo by Ahmed Al Sakkaf

“The first impression I had of the U.S. [is] that it’s exactly like the movies,” Ploenes said. “The J cafeteria and how it works… it’s really like the High School Musical.”

To save money on his flight, Ploenes flew to San Francisco International Airport and took the Greyhound bus to Arcata. He was surprised when a Greyhound worker asked him several times if he is carrying any guns in his oversized backpack.

“The guy working in the Greyhound asked me five times if I carry guns in my big backpack,” Ploenes said. “It’s not normal to carry any guns in Europe. You’re not allowed to. But in America, guns are normal.”

Ploenes was also surprised by the amount of “big cars” and pickups he found in the streets here.

“I’m not used to seeing a lot of pickups and a lot of big cars. Why [do] people need these big cars?” Ploenes said.

Ploenes noticed that the toilets here in the U.S uses a lot of water to flush and they have a lot more water in their bowls too.

“Toilets are totally different here,” Pioenes said. “You use a lot of water to flush.”

Both Ploenes and Nihalani think that people here are very kind.

“I was surprised with how friendly the people are,” Ploenes said.

“People are really nice here,” Nihalani said. “They’re very helpful.”


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