International students learn more than a book can teach

My name is Naw Assumpta. I am currently majoring in general studies and am planning to transfer to Ball State University next spring to pursue my degree in architecture. I also work in the Marketing and Communications office, so I get to write these fun blogs.

Assumpta Titan

Naw Assumpta, General Studies student and Marketing work study

I have been in the United States for five years after leaving my home country of Burma. I am still learning and adjusting to the differences in the two cultures.  Whenever I learn something new, I am amazed at how living in a foreign country can be challenging. It has made me more open-minded and accepting because I am learning, understanding, and navigating the culture of a different country.

I thought I would share some of the everyday shocks I’ve experienced.

Let’s start with the most important difference — food!

I grew up in a really small town in Burma. Most of my family are farmers, so most of our food came right out of our farm including rice, vegetables, and fish. Our snacks were sugarcane, mangoes, and plums. We rarely ate meat because it was so expensive.

When I first came to the United States, I was overwhelmed by the number of fast food restaurants. Like one every block or so. And they are affordable!

On my first day in the United States, my parents and I decided to go to a Thai restaurant for lunch. Each of us ordered pineapple fried rice and Tom Yum soup. I was surprised to see how big the portion of the meal was. The size of the meal was twice as big as the portions I ate back home.

School daze


Typical Burmese school uniforms: “htamein” for the girls and “paso” for the boys.

Another culture shock I experienced was when I started as a freshman, and I was surprised how public schools do not require students to wear a uniform. I learned that kids are free to wear whatever they want as long as it’s appropriate. In Burma, school uniforms are mandatory throughout public schools from kindergarten to 10th grade. The compulsory uniform for a boy is a white shirt and green sarong, also known as paso. Girls wear a white traditional Burmese blouse and a green sarong called htamein.

I was also surprised by how the higher education system works here in the United States compared to Burma. In Burma students choose their major based upon their university entrance exam scores they take at the end of senior year. Students are not allowed to choose their area of study. In fact, the government assigns their courses regardless of whether or not they have an interest in the subject. Students who make it to university will also have to pay high fees, and there is no such a thing as FAFSA or financial aid. I was so excited to know that here in the U.S. I could really study my passion, architecture.

In the classroom, I was also surprised by the teacher/student relationship. In Burma, students are to obey the teachers. They are not allowed to speak freely, to write freely, or to publish freely. Here, students are very active, and they are allowed to express their opinions.

Is it just me?

As I was writing this, I started to wonder if I was the only one who wasn’t really prepared for the differences between American culture and my home culture. So I asked other Ivy Tech students from different countries about their cultural experiences in the United States. Here’s what they have to say:

Thandar Knine

Thandar Khine, Business Administration student

“The biggest culture shock I experienced was not knowing how to address the professors and teachers here. I find it odd and weird to call the professors and teachers by their first name or even their last name because back in my country, calling teachers by their names is considered rude. We address them by calling ‘Teacher’ to give them respect for educating us. It took a while for me to get used to this when I came here for college”
Thandar Khine, Burma


Chit Ko, Computer Science student

“My first moment of culture shock in the United States was making eye contact with people. In our culture, making direct eye contact is a show of disrespect, especially toward elderly people. In the United States, making eye contact shows that you are paying attention, showing interest, and is also a sign of self-confidence. I was not used to the culture and hesitated every time I made eye contact with people”
Chit Ko, Burma

Khalid Ali

Khalid Ali, Database Management & Administration student

“A lot of people questioned my marital status when I first came here. They asked whether I am single or married. Right after I told them that I am single, they followed up by asking whether I have any kids. I was really shocked by this question, because having children without marriage is unacceptable in my country. I later learned that in the United States, it is legal to have children without getting married. From this experience, I learned that things that are acceptable in a country, could be a culture shock to other countries.”
Khalid Ali, Sudan

Who’s that? Meet Ramona and Christine, Admissionistas

By Nathan Riley, marketing intern

There are two individuals in the Admissions office you may not know, but I bet many of you have met them. Ramona Hawkins and Christine Ellis are  on the front line for both the Admissions and Marketing and Communications offices. They are some of the most positive people I’ve met in my short time as an intern at Ivy Tech.

I had the pleasure of interviewing them was able to get to know them beyond the jokes exchanged across the office. I learned that a typical day has many parts, including answering phone calls from prospective students and helping students navigate the enrollment process. They also process both paper and web applications.

How did they come to work at Ivy Tech?


Ramona Hawkins, Admissions

Ramona has been at the Fort Wayne Campus since she decided to pursue an Ivy Tech business degree. After she graduated, she joined the Ivy Tech team first as the Chancellor’s administrative assistant. She eventually joined the Admissions team to be at the forefront with students who are beginning their Ivy Tech journeys.


Christine Ellis, Admissions

Christine is relatively new to the Ivy Tech scene. She has only been here since September 2017. Before Ivy Tech, she worked at International Business College for 10 years. She loves creating an experience that is friendly and welcoming to students coming in to the College.

What do they wish you knew about Ivy Tech?
Both Christine and Ramona agree that many students don’t really know about some of the valuable resources available here at Ivy Tech, such as the Center for Academic Excellence and TRIO Student Support Services.

How about some interesting tidbits?
When they aren’t at work, they’re busy ladies. Ramona loves to work in her yard and relax watching TV and movies on the weekends. Christine loves to read books, to watch comedy movies, and to take in stand-up comedy. Oh, and if you hear screaming from the Admissions Office, it probably means there is a bug, because both Ramona and Christine are terrified of insects!

Ivy Stories: Healthcare is adding more jobs than any other in the country

Ivy Stories is a short, occasional feature on Green Light that spotlights current students and/or recent graduates.

There is a common misconception that those who want to work in healthcare must have direct patient interaction. However, those careers are much further reaching than nurses and doctors, which is good news for anyone looking for a job: The country is adding 2.4 million new jobs in healthcare, more than any other occupational group in the country.

It’s one of the reasons Melissa Green chose to study Health Information Technology at Ivy Tech’s Fort Wayne Campus.


When she started at Ivy Tech, she wasn’t positive what she wanted to study. She took an assessment test in the Career Development office, which suggested that she become a proofreader with a publisher or a medical records specialist.

“I chose the most promising one, as careers in healthcare are always available,” Green says. “This degree is an open-ended opportunity with an endless assortment of career choices. It’s such an exciting time.”

When Green graduated from our program in May, she was already working at Parkview Health when she accepted her diploma.

“My status as a future graduate helped me get that position,” she says.

A case for making art

Recently, I created a drawing using black and white charcoals on a charcoal paper. It was my very first charcoal art, and it’s safe to say that it is my favorite art piece I have ever created. I named the piece “The Ballerina,” and the inspiration came from Pinterest: I was looking thorough pictures and came across a black and white photo of a ballerina. Her body figure and movements inspired me to draw the piece.

One thing I learned about doing charcoal art is that the charcoal created a lot of dust. I had to be careful while I was drawing because that dust could smudge everywhere on the paper and create fingerprints. The charcoal itself has the scent of wood. If I looked at the finished piece, the texture might seem smooth, but if I run my hand over the piece, the texture is kind of rough, a little like sandpaper.

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The type of art I personally love to do is drawing and painting, but I also like crocheting and cooking. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing an art piece form from blank canvas to something magical. I find it really fascinating to see how I can create an art piece with just two colors.

This particular type of drawing brings me a lot of joy and relaxation; it calms me to shade and blend the black and white charcoals. I am easily stressed, especially with homework and assignments, and creating art, such as painting and drawing, takes that stress and anxiety away. It also helps if I am listening to music while I create. Depending on my mood, I might listen to R&B ballads and classical music or hit songs and pop music.

One other reason I do art is that it allows me to express my creativity. Being creative allows me to try different things and take risks. I express myself through taking risks, and trying different things helps me learn about myself: what I like, what I excel at.

I love that art is a universal language that lets us communicate without words. Everyone can take something different away from an art piece, and it does not require to know certain language to do so.

Some believe that real artists are the one who create sculptures or the one who paint on canvas. Others think that to be an artist, one must born with talent. Many are also concerned about how bad their artwork is. The truth is, everyone can be an artist. Art is freedom of expression, and we can express our creativity and imagination. It does not matter whether the artwork you do is good or bad, as long as you feel relaxed and relieve some stress while creating art—that’s all that matters. The art work you create does not have to be perfect, but it has to be you.

Assumpta is the work study for the Marketing and Communications office. Check out her previous Green Light post, about being multilingual, here.

Ivy Stories: Medical Assisting & Business Administration

Ivy Stories is a short, occasional feature on Green Light that spotlights current students and/or recent graduates.

Tisha Knott knew she wanted to study Medical Assisting since she lost her mother to lung cancer–because of the excellent care she received.

“I saw how much everyone involved with her care and treatment made a difference in how she handled the disease,” says Knott, a Medical Assisting student at Ivy Tech. “The knowledge they had was great, yes, but some of the kindest and caring people made my mom’s bad days better. I want to do that for people and give that back.”

From early in her education, Knott saw that the field was a good fit for her: She remembers watching a demonstration in Anatomy and Physiology–a sheep eyeball dissection–when a fellow classmate passed out. Knott remembers that she was the only person in class to react and catch his fall. He assured the classmate was OK and went to get help.

“He was fine, but when I reflect on that moment and how I reacted without any proper training–it was my instinct to help him–I knew that healthcare and direct patient care were for me,” she says.

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Just 4 percent of Millennials are self-employed at age 30; by comparison, 5.3 percent of Gen X’ers and 6.8 percent of Baby Boomers were self-employed at the same age. Despite the contradictory data, though, more than half of Millennials think their generation is more entrepreneurial than previous generations, perhaps because 62 percent have thought about starting a business.

Kendall Riecken is one of those who’s making his way: He won Ivy Tech’s New Venture Competition last year with KR Designs, his automotive company.

“My education prepared me to understand how the real world of business actually works,” says Riecken, a, Ivy Tech business administration graduate. “There were so many theories taught in school, and now I actually get to put them to use and understand what it takes to be successful in business.”

An Outstanding Student tells his Ivy Tech story

Each year, the academic schools at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne each select someone to receive the Outstanding Student Award at graduation. Patrick Conway is this year’s winner for the School of Arts, Sciences, & Education.

Hello, my name is Patrick Conway. I was born and raised in a coastal town in California called Santa Maria. Anyone who grew up with me would tell you that I was “all boy” for the entirety of my childhood; “getting into trouble,” “causing mischief,” and “being ornery” were often phrases used to describe me. Some would even argue those descriptions hold true to this day. I graduated high school in 2008 and shortly thereafter left for boot camp in the United States Army.

After five years, two campaign medals in Afghanistan, and many issues, I left the military. I had an old friend I had been deployed with in Afghanistan living in a small town called Angola, Ind. He asked if I would come join him, so I said yes. Long story short: Things did not work out, and I hit rock bottom.

It wasn’t until one day in 2015, when I was complaining about the lack of fair treatment for veterans in the U.S. and feeling abandoned by the country I had served, that my fiancée turned, looked at me, and asked one simple question that I will never forget: “Why don’t you do something about it?” I was astounded because, in that moment, I realized that I was doing nothing but contributing to the problem and perpetuating the issues I hated. I realized I had to be a part of the solution if I wanted things to get better for those like me. So I decided to go to school. After applying to IPFW and being turned down, I wound up at Ivy Tech, which wanted nothing more than to get me through their doors.

Here I am, a little over two years later, with an Associate of Science degree under my belt and about to start my senior year at Trine University for my Bachelor of Science in Psychology. My end goal is to work within communities with high populations of homeless and struggling veterans to provide them with the help they need, whatever that may be.

Twenty two veterans every day commit suicide. This statistic has been in the forefront of my mind, and I would be lying if I said that there weren’t days when I wondered if perhaps I might be one of those 22. Not anymore. The struggles of a veteran are real, and during my time at Ivy Tech, I have met many great teachers and students and been given opportunities to volunteer at homeless shelters for veterans. All of these opportunities have further cemented what I want to do with my career, and I could not have done any of this without Ivy Tech. While I don’t know exactly where I will end up, what I do know is that I will never forget those who impacted my life at Ivy Tech. So, from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all those veterans who have walked through your doors and been accepted, thank you.

How animals can help with our anxiety … and loneliness … and empathy …

Every year, the Library brings in therapy dogs during finals week to help you de-stress. Students–and employees–can pop in, take a seat, and scratch some ears and and rub some bellies of good doggos.

All in the name of chilling out a little while you’re in the midst of your final exams.

Ruth Davis and her dog, Piper, which is also a therapy dog.

Ruth Davis, a Human Services assistant professor and owner of one such therapy dog, Piper, shared a presentation about the emotional supports therapy and service dogs provide. Here’s how they work:

  • Animal Assisted Therapy can help us humans with our physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.
  • One way therapy animals can reduce stress is as a non-judging, listening ear, which can in turn increase verbal interactions.
  • Animals can help increase our attention skills (like staying focused) and self-esteem.
  • They can decrease our feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
  • They can even help us get better at leisure time.
  • And become more empathetic and nurturing.
  • Animals can be especially good for finals week because they can increase our vocabulary and aid in memory.

The pups will be in the library on Coliseum Campus from 10 a.m. to noon May 7 to 11, as well as possible afternoon times (check the schedule for details). Stop by for your fix of fluff.

Ivy Stories: Education is the No. 2 ‘hot job’ in Indiana

Ivy Stories is a short, occasional feature on Green Light that spotlights current students and/or recent graduates.

Indiana needs teachers. Big time. Indiana needs teachers so badly, education is the No. 2 “hot job” in Indiana.

Crystal Terry plans to take advantage of that need–which is handy, since she wanted to be a teacher, anyway.

Terry with her daughter, Kiara Alexis

“I want to be an inspiration to other students the way that my teachers have been to me,” she says.

When Terry finishes her associate degree at Ivy Tech, she plans to transfer her credits to Purdue University Fort Wayne for her bachelor’s degree.

“The experience that I have had at Ivy Tech has been amazing,” says Terry, of Kendallville. “All of the professors and my advisor has made a huge impact on my journey here. I have had great times as well as hard times, but I always pushed through the hard times and kept on going. I have learned so much, and I am looking forward to using what I have learned by passing it on to my future students.”

The biggest struggles with being multilingual

Here I am in Wichita, Kan. The statute behind me is called Keeper of the Plains.

My name is Naw Assumpta, and I am the work study for Marketing and Communications. My major is General Studies, and when I graduate from Ivy Tech, I plan to transfer to Ball State University to major in Architecture. I am originally from Burma, and I’ve been in the United States for almost five years.

I speak four different languages: English, Malay, Burmese, and another ethic language from Burma called Karen (which is pronounced ka-YIN). It would be easy to assume that a person who speaks multiple languages fluently is smart or has higher intelligence, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Although I am able to speak, read, and write fluently in English and Burmese, I struggle to do the same in Malay and Karen, though I can speak them.

Being able to speak different languages is incredibly rewarding, but it is tricky and complicated sometimes. These are some of the things I struggle with most often:

  1. Words are on tip of my tongue. Sometimes, words won’t come out of my mouth, and it is frustrating because they are just on the tip of my tongue. I also tend to forgot my vocabularies. One time, I was at the Burmese restaurant. I was trying to order fried noodle with shrimp, but I completely forgot how to say “shrimp” in Burmese. So I stared at the waitress and described what shrimp looks like. It took about 10 minutes for her to figure out what I was trying to order. Once, I forgot how to spell the easiest word, “one,” while I was writing a paper for my English class. It is funny how the easiest word can seem too complicated to spell.
  2. I confuse grammar rules. Grammar rules are different in each language. Sentences in Burmese are mostly translatedbackward in English, and the same as Malay and Karen. For example, the phrase “I love you” would translate backward in Burmese as “You love I,” (). In some cases, words or vocabularies can’t be translated because they do not exist in certain language. The word “chewing gum” does not exist in Burmese. Instead, we call it “PK” or “PeKay,” which is the brand name of the gum. Another example would be “car.” The word does not exist in Burmese language, so we use the English “car” with the Burmese accent to say “ka.”

    Here I am at 7, at Kandawgyi Lake in Burma.

  3. What language do I use when I am thinking? A lot of people are curious about what language I use when I’m thinking. The answers is, all of them. Depending on the situation, I might use Burmese, English, or both. Since I use more English most in my daily life, however, I do my thinking more in English than Burmese.
  4. You start losing the other language. I don’t use Malay and Karen as much as I use English and Burmese in my daily conversation; therefore, my ability to talk in Malay and Karen are fading away. I primarily use Karen to speak with my grandma and relatives back in Burma. I don’t use Malay as often because I don’t have anyone that speaks the language around me.

Despite of all the struggles, I enjoy speaking multiple languages. Languages are beautiful and unique in their own way. Being able to speaks multiple languages opens up new social opportunities and can be very beneficial when you travel. Studies show that being bilingual has many cognitive benefits and it can also reduce the risk of having stroke. Other research points out that speaking multiple languages . I encourage you to learn another language. I can guarantee that it will be rewarding and beneficial.

Etiquette tips when dining out for business

Joyce Baker, at right, is the assistant director for Career Development.

As I reflect on Wednesday’s etiquette dinner, I feel grateful. Grateful because 70 Ivy Tech students, employees, and guests gathered together for a wonderful meal prepared by our own catering service. All who attended seemed to enjoy the food, the company of friends, and the presentation by Karen Hickman of Professional Courtesy, LLC.

Hickman presented on business dining etiquette. Business lunches and dinners can actually be job interviews without the typical questions. How we present ourselves can speak louder than words. Here are some of the major takeaways from Hickman’s presentation:

When dining for business

  • Food allergies can be a serious issue. A polite host asks if you have dietary preferences and/or restrictions, and as a polite guest, letting your host know ahead of time can save an awkward situation.
  • As the guest, when ordering, do not order the most expensive item on the menu unless your host is encouraging you to do so.
  • As the host, if your guest orders an appetizer or an expensive dish, you should, too.
  • Be a courteous guest and send a handwritten thank you note to your host. Doing so within 24 hours is ideal.

Seventy people attended Wednesday’s business etiquette dinner.

Difficult-to-eat foods

  • Asparagus is cut and eaten with a fork. In Europe, it’s eaten with the fingers.
  • Chicken, turkey, and duck are eaten with a knife and fork. Fried chicken is eaten with the fingers at picnics only.
  • Spaghetti and long pasta are eaten by pulling a few strands to the side and twirling the strands around the tines of a fork that is perpendicular to the plate. A spoon is not needed.

Wine and toasting tips

  • The host is responsible for the toast.
  • If a toast is offered in your honor, stay seated and do not drink to yourself.
  • If you are the guest of honor, you should be prepared to respond to your host with a toast.
  • A toast should be brief and appropriate. Remember, a toast is not a roast.
  • Hold all wine glasses by the stem.

Be sure to try a little bit of everything at the dinner, unless you have an allergy.

Deal breakers when it comes to a job interview/business dinner

  • Don’t gesture with your knife and fork.
  • Cut one bite at a time.
  • Do not blow on soup or stir it if it is too hot.
  • Taste your food before seasoning it.
  • Refrain from putting on make-up, combing hair, picking teeth, or blowing nose vigorously at the table. A good rule of thumb is, “If you do it in the bathroom, don’t do it at the table.”
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Try a little of everything presented unless you are allergic to a certain food.
  • Don’t push your plate away from you when finished eating, wait for everyone to finish before plates are cleared.

Joyce Baker is the assistant director of Career Development for Ivy Tech Fort Wayne.