Studying abroad at RMU: Meet Nicki Cillié

January 20, 2016

The continuation of an international exchange students’ experience at Robert Morris University.

 Nicki Cillié – South Africa 

Originally studying at Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus as an international student from South Africa, Nicki Cillié decided to go on an exchange program through a partner school that EMU had, and Robert Morris University happened to be one of them.

Cillié has been studying at RMU since the start of the 2014-2015 academic year. With Cillié enjoying her experience so much, she decided to extend her exchange an extra semester to make sure that she was making the right decision to transfer.

“I wasn’t too sure how I felt about it (RMU), so I extended my exchange program for an extra semester just to make sure that I do make the right decision to stay or to leave; that whatever I decide to do that like, I’ve been at both places long enough to be able to compare them well enough,” said Cillié.

Cillié enjoys the fact that everyone spoke English well because communicating in English with everyone at EMU could sometimes be difficult because English was a second or third language. Everyone could say basic things, but since the culture was so diverse it could be hard to communicate sometimes.

She also really came to like the people here and fell in love. Though this wasn’t her main reason for transferring, it was something that helped her be able to let go of the people she became friends with at EMU. Since she had a relationship and friendships to come back to, it helped her with choosing to transfer to RMU.

The best experience Cillié has had while at RMU is the fact that she has met so many new people from different cultures and learned to understand them.

“The fact that I’ve traveled so much and I’ve met so many people from different cultures, it’s really nice to meet even more people and then to see how cultures differ and how they are the same,” said Cillié. “Just to see like, it doesn’t matter what language anyone speaks, everyone has feelings, everyone wants to be loved and accepted, so that’s nice just to be able to see these people interacting in different ways.”

One of the hardest parts for her was, at times, the cultural difference in communication.

“I would say something and other people would understand it wrong. Like, I’ll say something and people would take it the complete wrong way or…I’ll say something…and people will look at me and then I’ll say but I didn’t mean it like that and they’re like, yeah you did, that’s how you said it. I’m like okay, I get that’s how it sounds but that’s not how I meant it,” said Cillié.

Since this was Cillié’s first time to the United States, there were a few stereotypes that came along with the experience, most of them being the common ones.

First being that Americans think their country is the greatest in the entire world.

“I’ll say something like, I need to worry about my country’s president or my this or that. There was a guy in my history class that would literally tell me ‘well, you know if you lived in America you wouldn’t have to worry about anything like that or don’t worry, like America would fix your country or if you were an American citizen you wouldn’t have anything to worry about,’ just little things like that were really cocky in a way,” said Cillié.

She also previously heard before coming that Americans were very fake with smiles and such. Cillié said that she’s experienced a little of that, but it isn’t just in America because that happens everywhere. She also said not everyone is fake and that a lot of people really do care.

The biggest stereotype that’s probably heard the most is that all Americans are fat and unhealthy. Cillié said that this was probably the one that she had heard most before coming to the states. She has also found this one to be false, but she does believe that most of the food is unhealthy.

One culture difference that is very prominent to Cillié is how alcohol is consumed in America compared to South Africa and other places she’s visited.

“The people (Americans) get drunk so much! Like, no one drinks just to have fun, everyone just drinks to get drunk. Which is weird because I’m not used to that,” said Cillié. “Maybe it’s because we are allowed to earlier so we can all sit around a fire or watch a sport game and everyone is completely fine and enjoying a beer or something…it doesn’t matter but they can handle it. But here people are like ‘let’s go get wasted tonight.’”

One expectation that she had when first coming here is that most professors would be quite helpful and care about student success, which she found to be true. Cillié also was hoping to get a lot of practical experience in her classes and what she was studying.

“I really get the opportunity to get what I’ll be doing in the work field, ya know whereas I know a lot of colleges they teach you the theory behind it. Like for a press release, you’ll have to study the definition of what is it, when is it used but you never really get to write one. So I was really excited about that,” said Cillié.

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