Sara Amore, a 26-year-old education major from Melbourne, Australia, has just started her semester abroad at Montclair State University. She is one of 54 international exchange and visiting students who wish to dig deep into the American culture and enrich the campus with their unique perspectives.
To make the most of her stay, Amore was hoping to live with Montclair State University locals in order to learn more. Instead, she shares an apartment in the Global Living Community (GLC) with only other international students.
“I think we are kind of separate from actual American students,” said Amore.“ I thought we would live with an American because we came here to get to know that.”
The GLC is an on-campus residential community that houses people from all around the world on two floors of Alice Paul Hall in the Village. Aromas from almost all continents of the world spread through the hallways when students from Italy, South Korea, the Dominican Republic or Australia start preparing their dinners each night. What is missing for some of the international students, like Amore, is the scent of America.
Only 18 out of 72 students in the GLC are American citizens or permanent residents. As a consequence of single-gender apartments and other issues, many living arrangements are made without a student who already knows the campus and – perhaps most importantly – life in New Jersey.
Angela Cant, the International Student and Scholar Advisor at Montclair State, is responsible for housing arrangements in the GLC. Cant says one of the biggest challenges is how short international students’ stays are, which is why housing incoming students requires a huge amount of flexibility.
“The annoying thing is that I need to tell American students that I can’t guarantee them a spot because I have to wait for the international requests,” said Cant. “What I recommend is that students also apply for another place to have some room secured.”
Few Americans apply specifically for a place in the GLC, so many internationals do not get the chance to share their semester with local residents.
Max Antonov, an American student who received a room in the GLC, doesn’t want to live anywhere else on campus after spending just one semester with international students.
“The people here are so amazing and friendly,” said Antonov. “Each time you meet someone in the hallway it’s like a conference of nations.”
Keanan Carter, another American student who has been living in the GLC for a year, recalled an event with the first international student he met here.
“I was with Etrit Haxhiu from Kosovo the night the election happened,” Carter said. “We were both sitting on my bed and he was coming in with a bottle of wine saying that if the ship goes down, we should have a drink together. I will never forget that.”
While Americans at the GLC benefit from connections all around the globe and gain inspiration to travel abroad, international students could ideally become friendly with American students so they can get involved in activities and improve their English.
“My English is improving a lot,” said Ingeborg Aaserud, an international student from Norway. “My American flatmate shares much inside stuff with us, which is great.”
Resident Assistant Gregory Miller agreed that each room in the GLC should have at least one American roommate who knows the campus and can be trusted. He suggested greater promotion of this housing opportunity to get regular Montclair State students involved.
Although there has been no aggressive promotion yet, Cant supports the idea to mingle international students with American students to ensure cultural exchange. She aims to pair internationals with more locals in housing in the future.
“We even had marriages in the GLC,” said Cant. “You just never know who you’re going to meet.”