IUPatty’s delivers culture shock to international student

Tore Økland. Photo by Ethan Brogan.

Tore Økland. Photo by Ethan Brogan.

By Ethan Brogan

INDIANA — On Sunday, March 9, at about 2
a.m., Tore Økland, 22, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania finance and legal studies foreign-exchange student, walked from a house party near Giant Eagle Express on South Seventh Street to his residence near The Pita Pit at Philadelphia and Eighth streets. Around him, IUPatty’s, the annual student revel, was winding down.

Upon entering the parking lot behind his apartment building,  Økland later recounted, he saw two men beating a third man on the ground. Økland went to intervene. He was greeted with a blow to the back of his head that knocked him unconscious.

At that moment, Økland had been talking on his cell phone with his girlfriend, IUP nursing student Alexandra N. Manning, who recalled in an interview that she was just down the street approaching Økland’s apartment on foot. When Manning reached Økland, she dialed 911.

Within minutes, Indiana borough police arrived. Økland said an emergency medical technician treated him at the scene. The EMT said he had suffered a concussion. The next day, Økland went to Indiana Regional Medical Center. No additional injuries were found.

Two days after the incident, Økland recounted his experience in fluent but accented English, which he said he began to study in primary school and supplemented online.

“I probably learned more through video games and the Internet,” Økland added.

Økland is slight – 5 feet 5 inches, 126 pounds. But he held a weight-lifting record in Norway when he was 17, he said.

From his IUPatty’s experience, he said he suffers a slight memory loss.

IUPatty’s remains a point of contention in town-gown relations. But for Økland, a first-year foreign-exchange student from Haugesund, Norway, the incident illuminates differences between Norwegian and American law and culture.

“In Norway we do not really have a holiday with tons of people crowding the streets,” Økland said. “I think the reason that students go crazy is because the drinking age in America is 21.”

In Norway, the legal drinking age is 18, Økland said.

Økland is one of 860 international students who enrolled in the fall, said Jessica A. Dories, assistant director at the IUP Office of International Education. The university directs those students to an IUP website for information about American college life.

The site addresses American culture, for example, in a frequently-asked-questions format, including: “What do I need to know about America?” The answers are links to “currency,” “metric conversion” and “Fahrenheit/Celcius.”

Despite his culture shock, Økland said he plans to stay at IUP until he completes his undergraduate degree in December 2015. Earlier, he completed three semesters at Stord/Haugesund University College in Norway.

“I like it here,” he said. “It’s why I stay. It is easy to get new friends.”

Ethan C. Brogan is a sophomore journalism major from Pittsburgh.

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