Every summer, students come to TIP’s summer programs from around the globe. They bring not only their academic talents, but their cultures, experiences, and outlooks to share with other TIP students.
Meeting new students you wouldn’t otherwise get to interact with is one of the greatest benefits of programs like TIP, because it’s impossible to replicate the learning and growth you get from meeting people from other places.
We asked some international students from Summer Studies to reflect on their experiences.
Why were you interested in our program? Why attend a program in the United States?
Saurish, 8th grader from India: To be honest, my discovery of Summer Studies wasn’t exactly an odyssey. My father used to work at Duke, and he told me about this upcoming nerd camp where I won’t see my family for three weeks. I signed up immediately.
Anna, 10th grader from Japan: I’ve always needed something of academic nature to keep me occupied during the summer—whether it be the Summer Bridge Books my mom used to make me do, online courses, or learning about different cultures while I travel around East Asia.
Typically, my summers have been spent traveling from Tokyo to America. Oftentimes at the end of the summer we travel within Japan or in the region. I wanted to attend a program in America because I hadn’t really experienced life in my home country (that I can remember) with kids my age. I had never done anything like it before—save for the mission trip I went on as a sixth grader.
Isabel, 9th grader from Germany: I was interested in doing Summer Studies because it seemed to be a perfect opportunity to pursue a passion in an interactive way. Doing a summer study is a fun way to figure out what you’re really interested in and to build on that.
I chose to attend a program in the United States because I wanted a taste of the “American college experience.” I had done European programs before, but wanted to go to the United States since I was interested in the possible differences or similarities between cultures.
Justin, 7th grade from Taiwan: I often explore my interests during these summer courses to give me a better idea of my interests, or just my strengths and weaknesses in different subjects. I often attend programs in the United States because of the wide variety of students I can learn with, as well as many more class opportunities that these programs offer.
Ruhee, 10th grade from India: I’ve attended a Summer Studies program in India conducted by Duke and I really enjoyed the entire experience. I wanted to attend something similar, and I wanted to go out of my comfort zone, so a program in the United States fulfilled both of those criteria.
Victoria, 7th grade from Malaysia: I wanted to come for Summer Studies because I thought it would be a great experience for me to be on my own away from home. I also wanted to know what it was like to stay in the United States because I am considering going to boarding school in Florida.
What was it like to study in another country? What surprised you?
Saurish: Studying in another place was quite daunting for the largest while, especially because I attended an international school halfway across the world.
To be fair, it was an American international School, but there were still over sixty different nationalities that attended. That’s already quite an impressive number for a school, but you’ll be even more shocked as to where each individual came from. I met people who were Australian and Zimbabwean, Finnish and American, Swedish and South African.
It was also quite fun to study in an international school, because they put a priority on teaching us about the world around us. We would regularly learn about our neighboring countries, along with countries halfway across the world. And our field trips were quite decent as well. We would learn about the cultures and customs of certain Asian countries.
Anna: Collectively I have spent over ten years in East Asia, and have studied in Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea, at international schools. These schools offered diverse perspectives from a wide array of students who—like me—had been transplanted several times over their adolescence.
Isabel: I really enjoyed studying in another country since it gave me a new perspective of the United States. While there are some distinct differences between the United States and Europe, I was pleasantly surprised by the similarities. The other students and I generally had similar interests and were able to relate to one another. While at times I couldn’t understand certain inside jokes, I had actually expected to not be able to ‘relate’ more often. This surprised me in a good way.
Justin: One will understand that it takes a lot of independence to study in other countries. Not much new surprises me, as I already have experience with boarding summer programs.
Ruhee: This summer program was actually not different than the one I had attended in India, so not many things surprised me. What did surprise me were the various traditions that were a part of the culture and how these were regarded with quite a lot of importance.
Victoria: Coming from Malaysia, this experience was really different because of the people and learning about the kind of lifestyle the other students live compared to the kind of life I live in Malaysia, which isn’t so free. What really surprised me about the experience was how friendly everyone was compared to some of the not so friendly people in Malaysia.
What was your favorite part of the experience? What did you learn from being in another culture?
Saurish: Becoming friends with culturally experienced people allowed me to learn quite a bit about the world. Everyone had different experiences and different opinions of everything, and I was simply there to observe and soak up the information.
After five years of observing and debating along with them, I’ve started to have different outlooks of all the places that I go. Every time I go to our neighbour country Malaysia, the people are absolutely amazing, but the government sort of pushes smoke onto us, so I have an opinion. Even when I go to America, without offending anybody, the people are…American. (It’s a compliment.)
A lot of people that don’t get to travel as much are partially indoctrinated with whatever the media tells them. And to quote a great songwriter, “When you trust your television, what you get is what you got, and with all the information oh, they can bend it all they want.” I believe that my father made the correct choice to allow me to see the rest of the world, and be encompassed by it, because I have seen myself become more knowledgeable, more mature, and just a guy with a better character. I think more people need to at least see the outside world, and how beautiful and dangerous it is, including the place they came from.
Anna: I think my favorite thing about living overseas (especially in Japan) is getting to experience different cultures. I moved to Japan when I was seven, and grew up in a very mixed-tradition home. We take our shoes off whenever we enter houses, all of our food portions are very small, and at one point we ate on the floor with a coffee table and cushions. But at the same time, we watch football (granted, it’s on weekend mornings at 3 a.m.).
Isabel: My favorite part of the experience was the new friendships I made. While I really enjoyed Summer Studies and learned many new things from it, the people I bonded with were the highlight of my summer. It is amazing how close you can get to the people you’ve only just met.
Since I was in a different country entirely, my friends truly became my home away from home. I got to know a lot of people and asked them questions about what it is like to live in the United States. Due to the huge range of answers I managed to gain a wide perspective of American culture. I concluded that we are more alike than it may seem—in the end, we are all just people.
Justin: One of my favorite things is hanging out with different kinds of people I don’t normally hang out with. There are still differences in terms of our perspectives and opinions, but that’s what makes it more interesting.
Ruhee: I think my favorite part were the dances that were there each weekend. I really liked the traditions behind many of the songs and the dance sequences most of them also had.
Other than that, classes were very enjoyable as there was something new everyday. This culture was very different than what I had come from. People were very open about things that are regarded as stigmas here, which made it quite unlike what it is in India.
Victoria: My favorite experience from this trip was meeting new people of very different backgrounds and learning about the geology of the Appalachian trail. In Malaysia, I get to see so many different cultures because Malaysia has such a large cultural diversity. I found meeting people from the United States and learning about their lives and their cultures was a really great experience.
Do you want to be interviewed for an upcoming issue of Insights? Use our form to reach out. We’d love to talk to you about your passions!