Caity Klaassen takes her first steps at Queens and in America

selfie of South African student

Caity Klaassen observed Belk Residence Hall during Queens University of Charlotte move-in day on August 24. With an uneasy expression, she gradually approached Belk with bags in hand and pondered her first year as a college student.

Klaassen, 18, is an international student from Johannesburg, South Africa, which has a mixed population of different ethnic backgrounds, including people of African, Asian, and European heritage.

She said South Africa has 11 native languages that consist of different cultures. The largest two language groups are Zulu and Xhosa, and each tribe within them have their own traditional songs and clothing, she described.

After deciding to tour Queens, Klassen and her family booked a flight for the United States. Upon their arrival in August, her first reaction to America did not have a lot of culture shock. She said it’s because, although South Africa has many different cultures, it is a very westernized country.

Klaassen said she instead perceived certain activities in the United States to be very stable. She described how there are not a lot of potholes or garbage in the streets and fewer crimes in neighborhoods, a stark contrast from her experiences in South Africa.

When fall semester approached, Klaassen was anxious about living in a new environment. She found the prospect of being away from home, not having immediate contact with family, and having to make new friends a nerve-wracking thought.

Sometimes it was tough. There were moments where she felt she was struggling to express herself and other students were having a difficult time understanding her.

However, there were days when good outweighed the bad. She described how she got along with her new freshmen teammates, some of whom are also international students. Even though they were not from the same culture, everyone understood one another.

Klaassen has also utilized resources such as the Myrta Pulliam Center for International Education to guide her around Queens. They help international students comprehend American grammar, as well as show where everything is on campus.

Klassen chose to attend Queens because of the tennis team and her interest in studying in the United States. She said the coaches and students have also been nice and helpful and cited how during Hurricane Florence, one of the upperclassmen from ROAR orientation offered her a ride to Target for more supplies.

“I’ve made many American friends who’ve treated me with a lot of kindness and love,” Klaassen said. She looks forward to playing tennis in spring and meeting new people at Queens.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.