Exchange student adjusts, reflects on time at Southern

Matthew Monroe

It is always hard to jump from the comfort of your own culture to a completely different world. Senior foreign exchange student and international business major, Carolina Cabezas Madrid, is taking the change from Santiago, Chilé to Joplin, one day at a time.

The 23-year-old student came to the U.S. for the first time on Aug. 13, just shortly after graduating from the Universidad de Las Americas in Chile. She said that the school systems are relatively the same, but it is easier to get to and from class here in the U.S.

“It’s very far,” Madrid said. “It takes about one hour to get from my house to my University and all my classes are spread out. It drains me.”

The number of books in Chilé are very limited, which makes it difficult to get the material needed for classes. Madrid says schools in the U.S. tend to have more activities and events to attend for students, making it an enjoyable atmosphere.

“When you start in my country it’s far more stressful and in the states it’s more relaxed,” Madrid commented.

Many of people’s perceptions are based on what they have learned by reading, watching or even interacting with one another. Foreign exchange students have a first hand experience of how perceptions can be altered or reinforced. Her first perception labeled Americans as “independent” or “crazy.” Many of her views came from American music or television.

“American music, England music is very popular in my country,” she said, “And if you pay for it (television), you can see a lot of American channels and many movies.”

However, Madrid’s perception changed as soon as she met someone from America for the first time.

“Americans are very friendly and nicer than I expected,” she said. “If I need help, they help me.”

Madrid plans on finishing her study as an international business major, but plans on taking her career much further.

“My dream is to trip (travel) a lot,” she said, “But I hope to study criminal justice for a year, because there is crime on the ships in the ports.”

Her uncle works for an exporting company, Corza, which sells construction and wood framing to other countries. Madrid is doing a project about her uncle’s company for her major and is thinking about working for him when she gets back. Madrid leaves the U.S. in December, but plans on returning very soon.