Crossing cultures

by | Jan 2, 2019 | Inside Mines, Winter 2019 | 0 comments

Mines has a rich community of international students who come to the school to pursue their undergraduate and graduate educations, bringing with them unique experiences and global perspectives. We talked to a few international students about their experiences coming to the United States to study at Mines and the best parts of being an Oredigger.

“My first impression of Mines was that it was very different from Québec. I remember thinking it looks very American, just like in the movies. I also like that there are fields and people hanging out outside. In Canada, people don’t hang out outside because it’s too cold, but here, they are outside pretty much all the time.

“I knew a couple of guys in the math department, and one day, they were playing volleyball outside. It was February, and they were playing volleyball. Outside. I just thought that was amazing that you can do that here. 

“I told all my friends, and we started playing volleyball together. I would borrow a net from the Rec Center, and a group of people would come and play volleyball in the evening on Kafadar Commons.

“Every Friday for almost a year now, we play volleyball on Kafadar Commons. The goal is just to have fun at the end of the week, especially for graduate students since we are not as involved as the undergrads in on-campus activities. 

“Basically, I’ll send out a text message to a group of people. Every week, it’s a different joke or a story relating to volleyball, reminding them that we will be playing.”

Félix Therrien
PhD student, physics

“When I started my freshman year at Mines, my life was crazy because I wanted to try everything. I joined Astronomy Club and Kayaking Club. I even went for soccer tryouts, although that just lasted for a day.

“Being the president of the Mines African Student Union (MASU) is a big thing for me. I started in MASU as a recruiting officer, and the president at the time got us started with a lot of things. First, we made sure people knew we existed on campus, because even African students didn’t know we existed. But now the organization is increasingly known on campus, and being a part of it is amazing.

“I joined the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) this semester. I organized the barbecue, and it was an interesting experience. As an international student not speaking English as a native language, there are some things we can learn only by communicating and being involved with clubs on campus.

“I currently love what I am involved in on campus, because it’s both who I am and who I am becoming. Contributing to MASU and SME builds my character as an African and a future mining engineer.”

Stela Cayatte
Class of 2019, mining engineering

“When I decided to go to graduate school, I searched for the best petroleum engineering graduate school in the U.S. Mines popped up as the fourth or fifth when I searched. I decided on this school since it was one of the top schools, but when I came here, the core structure and the Petroleum Engineering Department here felt like the best I could ever find. All the petroleum engineering professors here are considered legends in the industry, and they are here at Mines, which is just amazing. 

“I am the president of the Petroleum Engineering Graduate Students, an officer for the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE) and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). Getting involved in clubs definitely keeps you occupied at Mines, but the main things I’ve learned are ‘people skills’ and bringing people together as a team. You can’t just be technically sound because employers are looking for leadership skills.

“In regards to the international students, I would say the culture here is super rich. I have a crazy habit of collecting currencies. It’s only been a year, and I have already collected dollar notes and coins from 45 different countries. I even learned a new language just by making friends with other international students. 

“I can get a degree anywhere in India, but here, we are lucky to be exposed to so many people from different places, and it’s impossible to visit all of these places in the world, as much as I want to. I can’t even generalize India, because every state has its different cultures—how can I generalize the whole world?”

Sathianandan Dharmaselvan
Master’s student, petroleum engineering

“When I first came to Mines, I felt very scared. But people here are very friendly, and that helped a lot. We immediately met the other international students through the International Student Council, and we also made new friends with the Americans.

“I am involved in the Saudi Student Association (SSA) and the Photography Club. In SSA, we just started a new activity called ‘Diwanya,’ where we gather all the Saudi students to just chat and eat together at every end of the month. One of my favorite Diwanyas was when we had a cooking competition. Not only Saudis, but a lot of the Arab people came and brought dishes, and we bought gifts and voted for the winners. We also organized other events, like a visit to the senior living community, and volunteered at Children’s Hospital. 

“Another memory I made here was getting my driver’s license. Women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, but I really wanted to. I took the driving test in the summer of 2016,
and now I have a Colorado driver’s license. Saudi legalized women drivers this past June—
I am very happy that I can now drive in my home country.”

Etaf Alghunaim
Class of 2019, petroleum engineering
Saudi Arabia