Vietnamese exchange student emphasizes importance of cultural awareness, assimilation

Vietnamese foreign exchange student Udeshi Seneviratne (pictured above) came to Geneseo from Vietnam after graduating from high school and has since fully immersed herself in the Geneseo community. Following graduation, Seneviratne hopes to either enroll in graduate school or go back to her home country to work for a newspaper (Courtesy of Udeshi Seneviratne).

Communication major senior Udeshi Seneviratne is a Geneseo student who came from Vietnam to the United States after graduating from high school. She developed a passion for learning about various cultures at a young age and has since chosen to discover and help showcase the world’s distinct societies. 

“I am from Vietnam, Ho Chi: Minh City, and that’s where I was born and grew up,” Seneviratne said. “But my father is from Sri Lanka so I’m half Sri Lankan and half Vietnamese, and I visit Sri Lanka once every year.” 

Although many people do not genuinely acknowledge and appreciate the distinct variations of different cultures, Seneviratne believes that her observance of two cultural styles has enhanced her interest to learn and understand different ways of life. 

“I grew up around two different cultures and so I saw the differences, but they’re both so different but so beautiful in their own way,” Seneviratne said. “Growing up with that perspective is so interesting and people don’t understand that sometimes.” 

In spite of the gradual transition into another country’s lifestyle, Seneviratne chose to leave her home country, learn a new language and enter into an Americanized community. Through her research to find a college that would be most suitable to her needs, she landed on Geneseo as she felt interested by its reputation and geographic location. 

“I graduated high school, and in high school I had always known that I loved learning about different cultures, so I figured I should try to get my higher education in a different country,” Seneviratne said. “I researched a lot of schools, but I think I was attracted to Geneseo because of its tuition, but also because it’s in a small area in New York and I grew up in the city, so I really wanted to know what it’d be like. Also, from what I researched, they had a great communication program and so I was just really looking for a different experience.”

With assistance and guidance from both her supportive professors at Geneseo and her kind friends, she found ease in the assimilation process to American society and in learning new terminology. 

“I personally had a really great experience here. I feel like people are very welcoming. There was a little bit of a struggle trying to catch the language and learning all the slang. Just a different language that Americans use, I guess,” Seneviratne said. “But through class and help with friends, I got to catch it pretty quickly.” 

Through the communication program she has pursued at Geneseo, Seneviratne intends to shed light on her native country. Her hope is to show the world Vietnam’s beauty through communicative documentaries. 

“I’m still thinking whether I should go to grad school or not … [If I take a break] I would maybe go back home and work for a newspaper,” she said. “[And maybe] create videos for them, more like human documentary works, just to show what Vietnamese people are like and what the culture is there.”