Students from Around the World Find a Home at Fordham
By Jennifer Spencer
Singapore native Sihien Goh, GSB ’13, volunteers as a soccer coach for South Bronx United, working with underprivileged children in the Yankee Stadium neighborhood.
When Fordham opened in 1841, its mission was to serve the immigrant church of New York. So it’s no surprise that Fordham continues to be a home for students from around the world to pursue an exceptional liberal arts education.
Students who have traveled from across the globe say that it can be hard to adapt to a new culture with friends and families halfway around the world, but that the Fordham family has given them a place to call home.
Sihien Goh, Singapore
Sihien Goh, a senior in the Gabelli School of Business, came to Fordham at the age of 20 after completing two years of mandatory military service in his native Singapore.
Some 60 years earlier, his grandparents had immigrated to Singapore from Southern China in search of a better life. They worked as laborers on the docks during the British colonial era, dying young due to the opium abuse that was prevalent on the docks at that time.
Goh’s own parents worked hard to make the most of their opportunity in Singapore. His father worked as a child in rubber plantations and started his own business growing tropical fish when he was 17.
Goh’s mother held a variety of jobs—baking, electronics assembly, and taking care of her three children while her husband worked extremely long days.
Their hard work to build a better life for their children paid off. Goh’s two brothers attended university in England. When it was time for Goh to choose where to study, an interest in finance led him to New York.
His desire for an immersive American experience led him to Fordham.
“From what I know, [NYU’s] freshman class had close to 50 Singaporeans,” Goh said. “I would have been hanging out with them all day, in Chinatown having Chinese food every day.”
“I would have felt very at home. But I’m not at home, and I shouldn't be feeling at home,” he said.
Since he started studying at Fordham, Goh has interned at UBS in New York and at the Singapore offices of Credit Suisse and Lazard. He is also the founder of Fordham’s Alternative Investments Club and lobbied the University to offer a value investing specialization.
While his academic and professional accomplishments are significant, Goh said some of his best moments in the U.S. have been spent getting to know his fellow Fordham students—Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with a friend, attending a wedding in Cleveland, and speaking to a classmate’s father as Warren Buffett considers purchasing the newspaper he edits.
“In a sense, I think I've achieved what I wanted to do by coming to Fordham. One, getting out of my social circle, being a little uncomfortable in a new environment, and two, to excel in that environment,” he said.
Erin Rooney, Christchurch, New Zealand
By Jennifer Spencer
Erin Rooney, FCRH ’15, chose to leave home in Christchurch, New Zealand, to study in America to pursue her basketball career.
Basketball lured New Zealand native Erin Rooney, a junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, to study in the United States. A top athlete in soccer, cricket, and basketball, Rooney decided that basketball was her greatest passion. But the opportunities to play beyond the high school level were slim at home.
She was recruited by Fordham Women’s Basketball Head Coach Stephanie Gaitley, who was then at Monmouth University in New Jersey. When Gaitley moved to Fordham in 2011, Rooney transferred.
After nearly four years in the United States, Rooney has started to find her groove. But she said the first year was extremely tough. The 18-hour time difference between the East Coast and New Zealand didn’t help matters.
“I literally lived on Skype my first year, and because of the time difference, I would talk to my family and my friends whenever I could, no matter what the rest of my team was doing,” she said.
Siobhan Rooney, Erin’s mother, said that Erin always been independent, but that during that first year, as Erin dealt with adapting to her new environment, sometimes Skype just wasn’t enough.
“You just wanted to give her a good cuddle, and you couldn't,” Siobhan said. “It was really hard, but we knew she wanted basketball as a career, and that's what she’s had to do.”
In the midst of adapting to her new home in the States, Erin was faced with the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Though much of the landmarks that she knew as home are now gone she still enjoys going back when she can.
“I do miss home,” she said. “It's not really home Christchurch that I miss now, it's really just my family.”
Though the early days were difficult, Siobhan Rooney said it was important to her that Erin perseveres.
“We as parents have to be tough and support her in why she came to the States,” she said.
“It’s no good saying, ‘Oh, dear, you’re feeling very homesick, you’ve got to come home. That doesn't work in the long run. The hard thing is knowing that it’s what she really wants to do, and as a parent, that’s what you want.”
Erin said one of the major cultural lessons she has learned while studying at Fordham is the value of networking and connections.
“Coming from New Zealand, it’s such a small place that you know everyone. One thing I’ve learned in America is to connect with people,” she said. “And people are always willing, always saying, ‘If you ever need anything...,’ even if I have only known them for five minutes.”