The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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The Lives of International Students

Three life history interviews conducted by Chris Petersen.

March 3 - 6, 2015


“International Student Perspectives: Colombia and Malaysia”  March 3, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

Urbina and Yeang respond to a series of questions concerning cultural differences, impressions of the United States, and the international student experience. They both discuss their upbringing, family background, community life, early interests, and progression through the educational systems of their home countries. They likewise reflect on the importance of religion in their lives, their perceptions of the United States growing up, and the role that the internet has played in their lives. Urbina speaks of her early research experiences and her graduate studies in the Netherlands, while Yeang shares his thoughts on the cultural and ethnic divides that exist in Malaysia, and his active participation in chanbara martial arts competitions.

Both interviewees trace the path that they followed to OSU, and remark on their academic work at Oregon State, their living circumstances in Corvallis, cultural adjustments that they have needed to make as a result of living in the U.S., and the social circles that they have developed at OSU. Yeang notes the pressures that have been placed upon him to follow an educational track that will lead to a high paying job. Urbina and Yeang both speak of their involvement with campus groups, share their thoughts on major issues faced by international students as a group, and talk about their ambitions once they have completed their tenures at Oregon State.

“A Doctoral Student from Colombia”  March 6, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

Jara describes her upbringing in Bogotá, noting the unstable political situation during her youth, and also speaks to the importance of religion and of education to her family. In outlining her educational path, Jara describes research that she conducted in marine biology both as an undergraduate in Colombia and as a graduate student in Mexico. She then discusses the circumstances by which she enrolled at OSU, her early impressions of the Pacific Northwest, and the adjustments that she had to make upon settling in Corvallis. She likewise details her work as a Ph.D. student, her engagement with other communities of students, and components of American culture that she has found to be particularly compelling. The session concludes with Jara's thoughts on issues of importance to international students, and her ambitions for the future once she has finished at OSU.

“A Master's Student from Nigeria”  March 6, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

Okonkwo discusses his difficult childhood as the youngest of nine children growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. From there, he reflects on community life in Lagos, ethnic and religious identities in Nigeria, political instability in his home country, and his experience of being bullied in high school. Okonkwo next describes his move to Washington, D.C. to study at American University, his adjustment to life on the East Coast, and his chance encounter with a kind couple who provided him with assistance upon his arrival in the U.S. He then recounts his decision to pursue graduate studies at OSU, his switch from Pharmacy to Public Health, his study habits, his social circle, and his work outside of the classroom. He likewise details his involvement with student organizations, notes the very small African community at OSU, and shares certain aspects of American culture that interest him, including American football. As the interview nears its end, Okonkwo discusses the ways in which his perceptions of the U.S. have changed, and the difficulties that he has experienced upon learning of increasing strife in Nigeria. The session concludes with Okonkwo's thoughts on his future ambitions following OSU.