The Bell Tower, an icon in the eyes of Temple students, signifies the center of Main Campus at Temple University, an area where thousands of students pass each day. At midday, otherwise known as rush hour, the bells of the tower strike to notify the beginning of each hour, but their ringing is met by the passage of indifferent students, racing to and from class. They can be found staring at their phones with headphones in ear, eating cold sandwiches as they walk, or waiting in line at a food truck for a quick meal. Some are late for class, and others are too immersed in their own bubbles to recognize the chaos that ensues around them. We have become accustomed to this pace of life and some might even say it is a part of  American culture.

Among these masses of hurried people there are nearly 2,000 international students, who have come from all corners of the globe and have brought to Philadelphia cultures of their own. For some, adapting to a new culture at Temple University seemed natural while others found themselves missing the way things were back home.

For Rayanna Ruani, a junior international business major and native of Cuiaba, Brazil, culture is the way in which you were raised and is defined by the things that are important to you. In Brazil during midday, Ruani’s culture finds her in a different scene than that of Temple.

She said her family always makes an effort to sit down together to eat lunch when she is home. Their table is full of plates of rice, beans, vegetables and meats, and her family uses the time as a break between the morning and afternoon. It was not until Ruani left Brazil that she began to hurry through meals, sometimes eating sandwiches as she ran to class. When Ruani is in Brazil, lunch is followed by a nap, a practice that is almost unheard of on college campuses.

Speaking with Ruani about her culture begs the questions: as constantly hurried and rushed students, are we too occupied with our own schedules? Do we spend too much time working and not enough time relaxing?  

Ruani shared her struggles of having to adjust to a cold social environment, where it is easy to make acquaintances but less easy to make close friends.

In Brazil, she said the culture is friendly –– people are genuinely concerned with your well-being and there is always the potential to connect with someone on a personal level. As a student in America however, Ruani said she was not had the same experience. Rather, she found that people were too consumed by their own lives to develop close relationships with others.

For other international students, the transition to an American campus inspired curiosity and interest in the world that surrounded them. Oyinlola Atinsola, a junior entrepreneurship major from Lagos, Nigeria, said that her culture in Nigeria is one of tradition and respect. As a member of a religious family, Atinsola prayed with her family often and came to recognize religion as important. She recalled her first Intellectual Humanities class with a smile and described that classroom as the first environment where she was exposed to different religions and ideologies. She became enamored with the freedom to ask questions, but found herself silent in the class as she listened to the conversations being had.

Oyinlola began  dressing differently,  became more globalized and began exploring the city, but she still makes an effort to shop at a Nigerian market in South Philly for ingredients to make the food her country is famous for. She makes Jollof rice, a popular West African dish, but admits that it is not the same as when her family used to gather together to eat Nigerian food.

As the sun set over main campus, Oyinlola reflected on what it was like to have the lights of the city or campus shine on you all night. She spoke with excitement of the city she lived in and with pride for the city she is from. But with the setting of the sun  came a drop in temperature. Oyinlola reached into her bag, grabbed a jacket and finished with saying, “I love it here, but I really do miss being warm.”

Photo Credit: Mark Raytses
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