On Friday, Sept. 1, the International Student Association hosted its first weekly international student Coffee Hour of the year. The event was well attended, filling up the North Pod of the Memorial Union with languages from all over the world.
The University of Maine welcomed 134 new international students for the fall semester of 2017. According to Mireille Le Gal, international student and scholar advisor at the office of international programs, new students came from 47 different countries. The largest number of students came from China (20), Canada (15) and the United Kingdom (13).
This year’s students came to UMaine to study in a wide variety of disciplines. Elbrus Novruzlu and Elkhan Salmanov came to UMaine from Azerbaijan to get their master’s degrees in computer science.
Novruzlu and Salmanov shared that they are enjoying the university so far. They are surprised by the slow pace of Maine, and impressed with how beautiful the campus is.
“It is very silent here,” Salmanov said, “we come from a big city, so we are not used to so few people.”
Leon Cortes came from Colombia to get his master’s degree in civil engineering.
“It’s cold here,” Cortes said, “look at me, it is the summer and I am wearing a sweatshirt.”
Wataro Saito from Japan is calling his semester here a vacation. He studies planned genetics at UMaine’s sister school, Hirosake University. Saito is taking art classes here, and he is a big fan of UMaine so far.
“It is awesome,” Saito said, “I love nature, I love quieter places. I like hiking and rock climbing.”
Iran-native Mohsen Farshad came to UMaine to attain his doctorate degree in chemistry. He shared that Maine is much less developed than he expected. He says he was surprised by how few buildings there are, compared to the reputation that the U.S. has in his home country.
Farshad is also concerned that people aren’t accepting of others’ differences here.
“When I try to talk to people about politics, they think I am a Muslim and they will be scared. Even though I am not Muslim.”
He thinks that the climate here is one of the contributors to his perception of Mainers’ cold attitude.
“For eight months a year, people walk from building to building. Maybe from a building to their car and from their car to another building. They do not talk to anyone unlike themselves.”
Farshad says that in Iran, everyone is social.
“My mother, if she doesn’t talk to another person all day, she will go crazy.”
The International Student Association hosts Coffee Hours every Friday at 4 p.m. in the North Pod of the Union. Every week, different organizations host the Coffee Hour and serve free food to both local and international visitors. For more information about the International Student Association, please visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/UMaineISA.