International students are a valuable part of the Maryville College community. They each have a fresh, unique perspective on American culture and on life on the MC campus, which helps other members of the community to see room for growth and to come to a greater appreciation of life in the U.S.
Onyekachi “Onyeka” Ononye is one such international student from Nigeria. She applied to Maryville College along with several other American colleges at random, including ones in Michigan and Indiana.
A sophomore biology major with a chemistry minor, Ononye became involved in student life on campus early on. She is an RA at Davis residence hall, a Bradford scholar, a member of the MC Concert Choir, president of Voices of Praise gospel choir and an officer in the Black Student Association.
When asked how she deals with homesickness, she laughed. “Most of the time I’m too worn out to even think about being homesick,” she said.
Ononye first heard about MC from one of her academic advisors in
Nigeria. She attended a large public high school in Nigeria, one which was targeted for recruitment by many colleges and universities in the U.S. and the U.K.
It is considered a top priority of Nigerian students to be accepted into study-abroad programs. Her brother and most of her friends are currently studying in the U.S.
While Ononye loves being at MC, she was immediately faced with a certain level of culture shock, which still affects her daily life here.
“I have tried so hard to culturally adjust,” she said. “There will always be that element there.”
Ononye was especially surprised by the social dynamic in the U.S.
“One thing that shocked me was the way that students would talk about things in general. There are some things that need to be said in your room and not in the open.”
Ononye also faces many American misconceptions about her home in Nigeria.
”I was visiting a class speaking on my life in Nigeria, and this girl asked me, ‘How does the clothing system in Nigeria work? Like, how do you get your clothes?’ and I was like, ‘Uh…the mall.”
Even her friends do not always understand her life in Nigeria: one friend once asked Ononye if there were houses in Nigeria.
Ononye was also struck by the different ways in which religion is approached in the U.S. versus what she has encountered in Nigeria.
“People [in Nigeria] are more spiritual than here,” she said. “They definitely believe in the fact that there are spiritual forces that affect our physical lives. It’s easier to express your faith back at home than when you’re in college. I think it’s harder to practice your faith here.”
Ononye felt that, while a college environment is good for exploring new ideals, it also has the potential to encourage an attitude of apathy or apprehension toward personal expressions of faith in Christian students.
One way in which she has adjusted to the problem of culture shock is by using her musical talents, participating in the Maryville College Concert Choir and VOP.
“Probably my favorite thing that I do here is Concert Choir and VOP,” Ononye said.“I met a lot of great people through those experiences.”
The MC Concert Choir recently performed at a naturalization ceremony, where over 160 individuals from various countries gained American citizenship. The experience was interesting for everyone, but especially for Ononye .
“I completely understand what those people have gone through that would make them want to be American,” she said.
However, Ononye has kept her Nigerian citizenship, although she plans to stay in the U.S. for an extended period of time, at least until she finishes graduate school.
International students often feel displaced at Maryville, due to their cultural and linguistic differences. Ononye feels that international students have something special to offer those who take the time to overcome these challenges and get to know them.
“I feel like people need to be receptive of international students and realize that they make a lot of effort to understand American culture and be a part of it.”