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April 13, 1990 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-04-13
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_ . .r



Dreams and stories of a foreign student'

America through
the eyes of
For the 2,465 foreign students
attending the University of
Michigan, there is an American
But it is not baseball, apple pie,
home ownership, a Chevrolet
parked by a white picket fence or
Betty Crocker in the kitchen.
"The American dream for me
would be to come here and,
through the years, by doing little
things, make it big someday,"
said Vineet Shah, a premed
student from India. Shah
explained that although it is hard
to be a success anywhere, it is
easier in America.
Kwesi Amegah, a graduate
student in naval architecture and
marine engineering from Ghana,
does not know exactly what the
American dream is but said, "If
the American dream is money,
the opportunity is here to make
According to statistics
compiled by the University's
International Center, the
University has an enrollment of
2,465 foreign students, who
reoresent 106 different countries.
This is the 12th largest number of
foreign students attending a
university in the United States.
Fifty percent of the
University's foreign students are
doctoral candidates, 31 percent
are working on their masters
degree, 14 percent are
undergraduates and four percent
are in professional programs.
Foreign students make up 15
percent of the University's total
graduate school enrollment, but
are more prominent in certain
fields. For example, they
comprise 50 percent of the
operations and industrial
engineering program.
Many foreign students said they
came to the University because of
the quality of education or the
method of teaching. "I did not
want to be restricted to the
European style of education,"
Shah said. "I wanted to get as
much flavor as I could from
college and this opportunity does
not exist in Switzerland or
England which where my other
Foreign students bring a global
perspective to the University.

Many of the students are highly
motivated and perform well in
their courses.
Although higher education in
the United States offers a lot
more flexibility than Europe and
Africa and the opportunity to
meet well-known professors,
many foreign students feel a
majority of the professors do not
live up to their expectations.
"I think American professors
are autocratic. Seventy percent of
the professors are not
impressive," Kwesi said. "They
do not seem to able to get the
material across to the students."
"I came here all the way to get
the best professors and it is kind
of sad that there aren't what I
expected," Shah said.
But Hans Beck, a non-degree
student from Germany, disagrees,
saying he thinks the professors
here are much more interesting
than those in Germany. "I think
most of them are more interested
in the students," he said,
explaining this is probably due to
smaller class sizes.
Role switching is one thing
foreign graduate students at the
University often do. 1,318 of the
2,102 graduate students are also
educational assistants - teaching
assistants, research aids, and
research fellows.
Undergraduates often complain
about the poor quality of their
teaching assistants' English.
But Jose Carlos Arantes, a
former TA, believes foreign
students work twice as hard as
American residents and their
inability to speak the language is
more than compensated for by
the amount of time they are
wiling to spend with the students.
"My experience was that the
best TAs were foreigners and they
work double," said the industrial
and operations engineering
graduate student from Brazil.
Because graduate work is very
demanding, Hans said many
students - Americans and
foreigners alike - do not have
the time to participate in politics
or other activities. As a result,
many American students view
graduation as a liberating force.
Many foreign students,
however, pursue doctoral
programs. Fifty percent of the
foreign students at the University
are doctoral candidates.
"American students do not see
the prospects of getting a Ph.D. as
enticing as foreign students
because they can start working
and get a $35,000 starting salary
while with a Ph.D. you get a

$45,000 salary," said Arantes.
Arantes added that "for
international students who intend
to go back to their countries,
getting a Ph.D. does not only give
you a substantially-paying job,.
but it is also a status symbol. In
Brazil I would say it is seen as a
great accomplishment."
Saied Tehrani, president of the
Iranian Student Association and a
doctoral candidate in computer
vision, said it was his goal to get a
Ph.D. because he enjoyed his
field of study and wanted to learn
as much as possible about it.

problems making friends like
other foreign students. He knows
many American students "but we
talk about things that are not
important, we talk about the
weather and ask each other about
classes for two minutes," he says.
In Germany, Hans explained, it
is very difficult to make friends
but once you have friends you
talk about more interesting
things. "I never talked about the
weather back in Europe," he
Expressions of friendship are
also different in the United States

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dictatorship in Germany by one of
my friends," Hans said. "Another
friend of mine thought East
Berlin was an island in West
Germany," Hans added.
Shah was also surprised when a
student asked him if India was a
two hour drive from Switzerland.
American students, Hans
explained, may not know much
about the rest of the world
because the United States is so
big. "When you are raised in the
center of America you really are
not confronted with going to a
foreign country."
Foreign students also have
awkward first-time experiences
when trying to learn the names of
different things and how to act in
various situations- which can
easily become embarrassing
While some international
students eventually adapt to the
United States and enjoy being
here, many of them keep abreast
of the events happening in their
"I'm sure I have a conflict
emotionally, I feel like going
back. I am very much linked to
Brazil," Arantes said. "I think I
could be very helpful there. On
the other hand, I think the us has
much to offer me."
Shah intends to go back home,
but his reasons are different. "My
main reason will be to work in the
villages in India. I will try as
much as I can to help my fellow
Like Shah, Kwesi believes that,
while remaining in the United
States could provide an
opportunity to make a lot of
money, he would not be satisfied
staying here.
"A west African proverb says
'When you feel good at the back
of your hand it does not mean you
feel good in your palm' which in
America would be synonymous to
saying 'money is not everything,"'
Kwesi said.
Yet recent political changes in
some countries have made it
difficult for foreign students to
know if they can return home.
Tehrani said going back to Iran
will depend on whether or not the
political situation in his country
Shixin agreed, saying, "If the
situation in China changes, I
would go back, but right now I am
not going back.''
"As a foreigner, however, it
always feels strange be in a
different land," he added.

basketball, baseball, volleyball,
field hockey, and women's
gymnastics coaches between
January and December 1989. All
were white.
"Since last year, there were two
additional Black hires: one was an
intern and one was a secretary.
Those are the traditional positions
that you have stuck Blacks and
women in for ages," Delaney
said. "To get two more Black
faces around that building doesn't
address the issue."
Even Weidenbach admits that
the athletic department "has very
good representation in terms of
women, but we do not have not a
good representation in terms of
The minority situation may not
change unless the athletic
department is willing to make
some changes in policy.
Weidenbach plans to hire fewer
people because of financial
reasons. Already, the athletic
department has few minorities
currently working there on a
promotion track. The athletic
department, maybe even more
than other departments at the
University, likes to promote its
"It makes it difficult for
minorities to gain
entry," Weidenbach said about
the financial crunch at Michigan.
"You also follow the practice of
promoting within. Certainly, we
have an obligation to recognize
long service employees that
perform well. You've got to
recognize your long service
people who do good work versus
the obligation to try and bring in
Yet Michigan is not only
recognizing those who have
served the University. Of the 10
hirings last year by the athletic
department, two coaches were
promoted from within, and six
were "candidates in mind" -
coaches brought in from outside
because they were chosen by
athletic administrators. Only one
was tracked down by a national
search. Of those 10 hirings, six
were women, but only one was a
"What is unusual about this
department is the number of
searches where they apparently
already have a candidate in
mind," said Giraldo, who has also
worked on affirmative action at
Montana State, Wisconsin-
Milwaukee and Amherst. "That
for me is a new development, but
this is the first time I've been at a
school which has such
outstanding teams."

In defense of the Athletic
Athletic Department officials
say they are concerned about the
lack of minorities in the
department. Schembechler might
have had the chance to prove his
concern had the basketball team
not won the NCAA tournament.
"I had talked to people about
candidates, but I did not talk to
any candidates because I
promised Steve I wouldn't do
that," Schembechler said. "That
doesn't mean that I didn't look
around and research. If we had
gone outside, I already had a
couple of Black candidates that
would have been very strong
contenders. But I never had a
chance to do that."
Similar concerns arose after
Gary Moeller was chosen to
replace Schembechler as
Michigan's head football coach.
The Affirmative Action
department and the faculty's
Senate Advisory Committee on
University Affairs expressed
dismay at the lack of a national
search before Moeller was named.
The athletic department
followed typical procedure when
hiring football coach Gary
Moeller. After being the offensive
coordinator, defensive
coordinator, head assistant coach
and a head coach at Illinois,
Moeller proved he could handle
the "responsibility" of being a
head coach. He possessed great
experience for recruiting in the
Midwest and working with high-
powered academic Universities.
Even after a nationwide search, it
is unlikely that a candidate with
his resum6 could be found.
While many outside the athletic
department complained about the
way the football job was handed
over to Moeller, most figures in
athletics do not see a problem
with the way it was handled.
"Bo handed the gavel over to
his assistant, and as an
organization, you don't have a
problem with that," said BcA
President Rudy Washington. "He
kept it in-house, it was a nice
thing. There was really no Black
guy there in line for the job. If
you pass the gavel in-house, I
think people can live with that."
The football program may
actually be somewhat separate
frorh the rest of the department.
Assistant coach Tirrel Burton is
the senior minority at the athletic
department. In his 20 years at
Michigan, Burton said he has not
been discriminated against in any
Senior academic advisor George
Hoey reitirated Burton's feelings.
Since he came to Michigan in

1978, Hoey has not been affected
by stereotypes while on the job.
Weidenbach points out that
intern Hinton and a minority
graduate assistant for football
were hired this year. Both head
football coach Gary Moeller and
Sports Information Director Bruce
Madej asked specifically for
minority candidates for intern
As far as bringing in other
minorities, any athletic
department affirmative action
efforts may be hampered by the
application process which does
not require applicants to state
their race.
Phyllis Ocker said she would
not have known even if she had a
minority applicant for the
volleyball job, because it is illegal
to make anyone state their racial
background on an application for
employment. Weidenbach noted
that he could not identify one
minority of the 50 applicants for
the baseball opening. In both
cases, white candidates were
"We have a responsibility to
look at minority candidates,"
Weidenbach said. "Of course, it is

very difficult in some of the fields
we are in to find minority
According to affirmative action
standards, the athletic department
has been "affirmative. They seem
to be attempting to deal with
their goals," said Zaida Giraldo.
Not one of the past or present
minorities who worked in the
athletic department could avoid
saying something positive about
their Michigan experience.
"I worked with great people,
especially (Associate Athletic
Director for Business) Bob
DeCarolis," Delaney said. "I
think he is going to go far in,
collegiate athletics. He is a very
good administrator. Guys like Bo,
Jack, they are good people. I
don't think that a problem exists
there because there are too many
conscientious people who are very
Delaney said the athletic
department attitudes come from a
University-wide sentiment that
Michigan must open more doors
than just those in the athletic
"The question is not is there a
problem at the athletic


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But academics is not the only
area in which international
students differ from Americans.
Foreigners experience culture
shock and a sense of
estrangement when they arrive in
the United States. Many have a
difficult time adjusting to the new
"My first two weeks in the
States I was restricted to my
room. I was lonely and I had
social problems," said Shah. "It
was very difficult because I felt
uncomfortable even though I
consider myself outgoing."
Tehrani experienced a
tremendous culture shock.
"When I arrived, after two weeks
a movie was shown on wv which
depicted a father sexually abusing
his daughter. This was a great
culture shock to me," he said. "I
was even more shocked when I
talked with my friends and they
said it was real and happened
often. I had never heard of it in
my country."
But Hans did not have

than they are in many countries.
"When I first got here I was
staying in the dorms and the
shower rooms are not private. To
me that is very strange," Tehrani
said. "However, if two men hug
each other on the street in my
country people know they are
friends, but here they think it
means you are a homosexual."
Tehrani added that he thought
this behavior was very
contradictory. In Iran, if men and
women hug each other, it is a big
deal but nothing is thought of if
men or women hug members of
their own gender.
Hu Shixin, a doctoral candidate
in electrical engineering from
China, said he prefers to have
friends from China because they
understand him better.
Foreign students are also faced
with an overwhelming amount of
questions from American
students. Sometimes the
questions can be as confusing as
they are shocking.
"I was asked if there was still a


II "



Y .,,,/

by Vera Songwe



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April 1.12901

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