International students experience cultural differences

By Sarah Wojcik

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With a growing number of international students on campus at Oakland University and a need to create a positive immersion experience, there are a variety of outlets students can tap into, including ESL club and events sponsored by the International Students and Scholars Office.

The ESL club administration, a culturally diverse medley of students, works to bring international students together on a weekly outing.

Yuko Kinjo of Japan is the president, Priyanka Sevak of India is the vice president, Gustavo Pessutti of Brazil is the secretary and Audra Lord, the ESL graduate assistant, is the treasurer.

This semester, ESL club has hosted a game night and a bonfire, during which they made s’mores and carved jack-o’-lanterns.

Priyanka Sevak experienced Halloween for the first time.

“I didn’t hear anything about Halloween in India,” Sevak said. “In India, the pumpkin is not grown up, so when I first saw a pumpkin, I was in shock to see this big pumpkin.”

She said that, while Halloween is fun, her favorite American holiday is Thanksgiving because people can meet each other in a sit-down environment and celebrate.

As a degree-seeking student studying accounting, Sevak will have the opportunity to experience more American holidays, including Christmas.

Yuko Kinjo came to OU during the summer semester and became president of ESL club shortly after the fall semester began.

“I think the purpose of ESL club is having American experience,” Kinjo said. “We have fun together and speak English.”

Kinjo said that planning events is difficult for her, but she is proud of herself when an event is successful.

Audra Lord praised Kinjo’s leadership ability, saying that she has a knack for getting people excited about events and bringing students together.

Lord estimated that a core group of 15 to 20 students come to the ESL events.

All are welcome to join ESL club. Their events are generally on Fridays. They are working on going to a Red Wings game, cider mill and making gingerbread houses in December, according to Lord and Kinjo.

On Friday, the ISSO hosted a Halloween fun night in the Banquet Rooms of the OC. A large showing of international students and domestic students attended the event for a brief history of Halloween, refreshments, games, pumpkin painting and a costume contest.

Among the students were Amir Kazemi, who is in the process of getting his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and Taraneh Matloob, who is seeking a Ph.D. in children’s literature. Both students are from Iran.

Matloob said she enjoys seeing her friends and that she likes the color orange for Halloween.

Sue and Nazar Keer of Clarkston act as hosts for Kazemi and Matloob through the ISSO’s non-living host family program. Kazemi lives in the International Village and Matloob lives off-campus. Now in their third year of hosting international OU students, the Keers became aware of the opportunity through their church, Auburn Hills Christian Center. Nazar is originally from Iran.

“I knew we’d love it,” Sue said and explained that they love different cultures and cuisine and helping international students assimilate into American culture.

Shaina Kalasho, a cell group leader in the Honor College’s mandatory colloquium class for freshmen, brought her group to the event as well.

To join ESL club, visit their Facebook page at For more information about student hosting opportunities and upcoming events through the ISSO, visit