Record number of international students enroll at GV

GVL / Courtesy - Alissa Lane

GVL / Courtesy – Alissa Lane

More than 400 international students from around the world are currently studying at Grand Valley State University.

Elizabeth Jawish, the international student integration coordinator at the Padnos International Center, said culture shock and academic adjustment are the two most common problems students face when they come to the United States.

Culture shock is the cultural adjustment process students go through when arriving in a new country they are not familiar with. Not everyone will experience culture shock in the same way or to the same degree.

Academically, international students may have a lot of adjusting to do. Jawish said this is because the U.S. education system varies greatly from that in Europe.

“I meet with students to show them things we consider normal like keeping a planner,” she said. “It depends on the level the students are at. Sometimes it’s just little things, but all the same resources are available for international students as regular students.”

Nikola Gudovic, a hospitality and tourism major and German minor, is currently in his second year as a GVSU international student. His home country is Montenegro, located in southeastern Europe.

Gudovic said culture shock was not a major issue for him, though he did notice many differences between his home and Michigan.

“I had to adjust to some laws that I never thought existed, but food is the worst cultural shock we have because what’s available here is different than at home,” Gudovic said. “I’m a sponge when it comes to language and culture. I take in everything.”

In terms of academics, Gudovic said the main differences he noticed included the higher homework load and mandatory attendance. However, he also mentioned many positives, such as the attentiveness of the professors, who he said are just like an “academic parent” because they make sure students understand the material.

“People here are so willing to help,” he said. “People are really polite here. In Europe, people don’t do the small signs of attention and politeness like saying ‘thank you’ to your bus driver.”

Gudovic added that diversity is a major positive element at the university, a place where everyone can fit in somewhere. He said he has participated in many groups, including African Council, German Club and the Resident Housing Association.

Connecting with domestic students is something Gudovic has done easily right from the start of his time in the U.S. and at GVSU.

“It’s a really nice place because it’s just like a big family,” he said. “International students have so much to offer. Stereotypes can be a wall between students and can cause conflicts, but I broke most of the stereotypes I had about Americans. When you hear each other’s stories, it’s beneficial for both sides.”

To combat culture shock, Jawish encourages foreign students to meet with her. She also highlighted ways domestic students can connect with internationals, such as on-campus events, student organizations and other programs.

GVSU students should remember that international students are the same as any person and deserve the same respect, Jawish advised.

“West Michigan is a great community for internationals to come to because people are so welcoming and polite,” Jawish said. “We really want that connection.”

The Padnos International Center and the International Student Organization are sponsoring several international events that are open to all GVSU students:

  • The Global Leadership Organization has its first meeting on Jan. 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The organization features a buddy program between domestics and internationals and also works with ELS students.
  • Two international dinners will take place at 6 p.m. in Connection this semester. The first happens on Jan. 25 and the second on April 12.
  • Sexy Accent Night is the biggest International Student Organization event of the year. It occurs at 7 p.m. on March 28 in Kirkhof’s Grand River Room.

For more information on how to get involved, contact Elizabeth Jawish at [email protected]. Visit for more resources and information on culture shock.