After 6 months: Voices from the Netherlands, Ireland and Thailand

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LANSING — For any international student coming to the United States, the first few months on campus can be daunting. When home is thousands of miles and multiple time zones away, sometimes the things local students take for granted are a struggle.

That struggle multiplies for a pair of international students on Michigan State University’s field hockey team. Freshmen Daphne Voorman of the Netherlands and Jade Arundell of Ireland have an even smaller window of opportunity to check in with loved ones back home.

They are among the 1,300-plus international students spending their second semester on campus this spring, according to MSU’s Office for International Students and Scholars.

“When we’re done with practice around 6 [p.m.], our whole day is done,” Voorman said. “Then we finally have time to talk to people. Then it’s 12 in the Netherlands and everyone is asleep.”

Voorman, 18, grew up about 20 minutes north of Amsterdam. She had been to the States just once before moving over in the summer to train for the 2018 season. The business-preference major cited the ability to combine high-level collegiate athletics and academics as a deciding factor in coming to MSU.

Arundell is also 18 and originally from a small town along the southwest border of Ireland, about 30 minutes southwest of Dublin. However, she’s not the stereotypical student. She spent most of her secondary school years bouncing around different parts of Europe and had close relatives in Spain and England. It was an easy choice when MSU came calling to recruit her to East Lansing.

“They asked me to come,” Arundell said. “It was as easy as that. I wanted to improve my fitness and get better. I like it so far, it feels like a good decision.”

The two are among five international players on the MSU field hockey roster. The practice of bringing international players to American colleges has been around for the past couple decades.

Moving in last summer was the first time Arundell, who had visited major U.S. cities as a tourist, had been to East Lansing. She was quick to point out a couple of differences between day-to-day life in Europe and in the States.

“The people are a little more friendly here,” Arundell said. “The houses are bigger, the roads are bigger, everything’s just bigger.”

Voorman quickly found that things were slightly different in the U.S. than many Europeans’ concept of American life.

“In your head, you get this idea of what the typical American is like,” Voorman said. “Coming here, I was expecting this certain type of person but everyone is genuine and real here and it’s definitely not the same as what I expected.”

Yoodong Hwang is also a newcomer to campus, although he’s a senior. He moved to the U.S. last summer to finish up his business degree at the Broad College of Business.

Originally from Thailand, Hwang quickly settled in and is currently part of the Broad Student Senate. His desire to continue his education was the deciding factor in coming to MSU.

“Right now, the goal is to graduate and get my master’s the year after,” Hwang said. “MSU offers the nice one-year MBA programs so coming here felt like the best way to get things done.”

The 22-year-old learned English as a child, something that he finds useful in navigating the social scene on campus.

“I can’t imagine how tough it would have been to try and learn English for the first time while coming here,” Hwang said. “I don’t know if I would have tried to come to an American college without knowing the language first. You see it with some people that might not know it, and they struggle.”

“Coming here has been exciting to say the least,” Hwang said. “I’m just looking forward to these next few months and beyond.”

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