Javier Pascual, November '15

Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student/scholar by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to intnl@lehigh.edu.

1. So tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying here at Lehigh? When will you be done with your studies/research

My name is Javier Pascual and I am 24 years old. I come from Barcelona, Spain. After earning my Bachelor’s degree and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, I made the decision to carry out my Master Thesis in the USA. I strongly believe that this experience will give me an extra value in my personal and academic career. Additionally, Lehigh University was my best option among the others.

I just came in August and I am supposed to finish my final report by February 2016. I know it’s a short time, but I promise that I am working hard to achieve it!

Barcelona on my back from the highest point of the city

2. So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The faculty? The people? Your housing?

First of all, let me say that the American university is pretty different than the ones in Spain. Lehigh has an awesome and huge campus with a lot of facilities such as multiple libraries, computer labs and a gym. Furthermore, I cannot forget to mention the squirrels and deers that live on the campus! It’s lovely having such diverse nature surrounding the university.

I’m living off campus and my home is just two blocks away. Sharing a house with other students from the US as well as other countries has given me the opportunity to learn about other cultures.

Also, the faculty members at the university are very welcoming and form close connections to the students, which I really appreciate it. For example, a professor might be very strict and professional while teaching; however, after class, he may share with you an amazing adventure of his life about when he got lost in the Amazonas during a vacation!

In addition, there is a wonderful atmosphere with all the students, both local and international. They love playing sports and going parties like I do. This is why I really like to mingle with all of them and I assure you that there is no time to get bored! Haha

3. What is your daily life like at Lehigh?

Let’s say I try to do different things on weekdays and weekends. From Monday to Friday, I always go to my office in the ATLSS at the Mountaintop. There, I spend all the time I need to work and some afternoons I also like to play soccer in the fields or run around Bethlehem with a friend. I believe that separating time for working from time for relaxing makes me more focused on whatever activity I am currently involved in.

On weekends I like planning trips to visit different cities around here. So far, I’ve been in New York, Philadelphia, Allentown, and Princeton. It’s always fun to show your friends all the pictures you get from travelling to such beautiful cities like these.

Also I strongly recommend going to the natural parks around Bethlehem. I went to the Glen Onoko Falls which is not far from here. I’ve never seen the fall season like it is here! The mix of colors between orange, brown and yellow makes for an unforgettable landscape!

Glen Onoko Falls, PA

Also, I always try to join in on the activities organized by the OISS. They are always inexpensive and it’s a good opportunity to introduce international students into the culture of this country. So be aware of when they are come up!

Pumpkin picking organized by the OISS

4. In the short time that you’ve been living here in America, what have you learned about its culture, language, ideals and traditions?

It didn’t take me very long to notice what American people like. They love sports, food and cars. If you have the opportunity to go to some BBQ, wow… they really know what is going on there!

Also I have found local people pretty friendly. They always ask you to go somewhere such as to go play sports or participate in another activity with them. I didn’t find it difficult at all making friends here. I feel like for me that has been such an important part of this experience.

Regarding the language, it’s true, they have strong accents. It seems like they are always speaking faster while skipping letters which makes it difficult to understand. Anyway, it’s something you have to get used to.

Finally, they are passionate about traditions. They take that very seriously. Sure, it is time to celebrate, why not? I’m so excited looking forward for the next Christmas here!!

5. What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?

In terms of culture I don’t believe we are extremely different. However, I did find a few pretty big differences:

1)      The size: Yes, this is a country where the small size does not exist at all. Big size in beverages, burgers, cars, highways… yeah, that’s the way they do it here!

2)      Different flavors: I don’t know why even the same brand in Spain here it tastes different. I sometimes feel like gambling when I’m buying some soda or beers.

3)      Units: Come on, this is like another language! Ounces, gallons, pounds, inches, feet, yard, miles… I’m sorry I just decided to give up haha.

6. Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country.

Before coming here, my life was very busy. I worked for a company in an internship on weekdays from morning to afternoon. Then a few days, I had classes from afternoon to night in my university. I definitely had to work hard everyday, but it was fine since I was learning at the same time. For me, it’s so important working while studying, because I think applying the knowledge I learn in classes to real situations out in the field is very beneficial.

On weekends, I used to go have dinner with friends and hang out a little bit at nights. But, for sure, once I finish my research I’ll try to make the best of my free time!

7. What are your hobbies? Interests?

I define myself as a very active person, so if I’m doing nothing I feel like wasting my time. I’m a sports lover. I play soccer, swim and run. I really enjoy watching soccer games (I’m a Barcelona supporter), basketball and tennis with my friends.

I love travelling. Going abroad is more than just an experience for me. It has enhanced my knowledge about different people and this society. I always compare travelling with doing a puzzle. Every single piece is different but the whole is incredible.

Also, there’s always time to listen to music, and yes, I play Spanish guitar!

8. What kind of adventures have you been on here in the U.S.?

I don’t know if my answer really fits in this question, but for me it has been an adventure since I finally got used to that! I am referring to going to the grocery shopping in a supermarket. I couldn’t handle when I had to decide on what to buy there. These stores are amazing! There are hundreds of aisles, thousands of shelves, millions of products. Imagine me stuck trying to decide what chips I wanted to buy. BBQ, cheddar, classic, dill pickle, honey, sweet, then pay attention to the saves, discounts or lower fat and what else I cannot remember now. By the time I got it, I felt like my VISA had expired!

The classical shelves for chips in a supermarket

Believe me, there is something wrong with the word, supermarket, I would call it “supermazet” (Yes… here is a tip for some commercial haha)

8. What do you miss most about your home country?

Well… there is one thing I would like to bring anywhere I travel. I call it the Triple F and goes like this: family, friends and food. They are pretty important in my life and obviously I miss them here. The fantastic weather, the beach, hang-out in a terrace drinking cold beers with delicious tapas (I know you’re thinking it’s hard to leave this). But anyway, I really like to go deep inside the culture of the country where I’m living. So now that I am here I make the most of it by trying to live like an American. For example, by having dinner around 6pm, going pumpkin picking, playing baseball, watching football and eating junk food! It’s not bad… is it?

9. If someone were to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?

Okay… I guess it is time to take this interview seriously and get all the readers excited to visiting my country next holidays. Let’s do it!

Did you ever feel like going to a country where you are surrounded by delightful and exquisite cuisine while simultaneously surrounded by both modern and picturesque architecture? I am saying all together at the same time, from north to south and east to west. Is that not enough? Wait…

What about spending your days in beautiful beaches, excellent weather, visiting gorgeous monuments with a lot of history that make every single city special to visit? Let yourself be free to discover the people from Spain. They’re friendly, kind and are always happy to make your trip unforgettable.

All these reason will make you bring home not only an enormous smile on your face and 500Gb of memory in your camera full, but the feeling of going back again because once you experience my country, your heart will be complete and your life will make sense!