The international community is growing rapidly at K-State. Around 10 percent of the students are foreigners.
Emilie Guidez, graduate student in chemistry, is among them. Guidez is originally from the town of Annemasse, France. After living in Kansas for four years, she said she likes everything in the United States and now doesn’t want to go back to France.
Guidez gained her bachelor in chemistry in the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Her town is located right on the border with Switzerland what enables her to go to the university by bus every day. Even though the town is a part of the Geneva metropolitan area, the bus ride will usually take around two hours with numerous stops and busy traffic.
Unlike many people who are looking forward to settling in bigger cities, Guidez finds the small town lifestyle more attractive. This is why she is so excited to study in Manhattan.
“It’s not a big city, it’s not too crowded, not too stressful,” Guidez said. “But it’s big enough to hang out. It’s just the right size.”
Living in a small town to her mind has more advantages. It is never loud, the air remains clean and fresh. Also nothing tempts her from work in a town like Manhattan.
“Parties and getting drunk all night, I don’t care about that,” Guidez said. “I care about people, making friends. And here I made very good friends.”
The only barrier Guidez had to overcome in the United States has been the food. In 2008 when she was on an exchange trip at K-State Salina and was on the meal plan she had problems with local food that she didn’t like at all. Now, when she lives off campus, she cooks herself. Sometime she cannot find some ingredients and has to adapt traditional recipes from her mother and grandmother she uses.
What Guidez likes a lot is the American system of education. The university she used to go in Geneva is incomparable with K-State, she said. Unlike in the U.S., students in Geneva don’t enroll in classes they would like to take. Once they are accepted into their program, they get a schedule for the entire course already set up by the faculty. And no student can either add or drop a class.
Back in Geneva, university policy was strict. The grade was never comprehensive and was based on the final exam result only.
In case the student failed, he or she had several chances to retake the exam. Repeated failures led to dismissals. In Guidez’ class, for example, 50 students began, but in three years only 15 were left. The rest didn’t pass some of the exams and were kicked out.
“It’s never the teacher’s fault if you fail. It’s always your fault,” Guidez said. “You cannot complain to your teacher if you fail.”
A large part of her time at K-State is devoted to non-class activities, participating in different clubs, volunteering. In Geneva students are so busy with their classes that they cannot find any time to do anything out of the classroom. Every day Guidez awoke at 6 in the morning and came back home only by 10 at night.
“It’s just physically impossible,” Guidez said.
Although the societal values are the same in general, some of them are totally different. For instance the French bring up kids differently. Here, in the U.S. if you hit your kid he can call child services. But in France parents can threaten their kid and no one would think of calling child services.
Another difference between the two societies is the attitude with respect to the church. While older people still remain religious in France, it is not as common for young people to go church anymore.
There are other things Guidez would rather borrow from American society. One is the absence of a dress code for students. Here, in the United States she can wear whatever she wants, but back at the University of Geneva she had to dress up every day.
“It’s a social suicide if you come to school in pajamas in France,” Guidez said. “People will throw tomatoes at me. Here it’s ok.”
Guidez likes travelling and had already visited several countries. By far she considers the U.S. as the best place for living. Even France, where she was raised, doesn’t seem to be as comfortable as America.
“I feel more comfortable here than there,” she said.