When people who don’t live here think of America, what is the first thing that pops in their heads? Is it the grandiose skylines of New York City? The bustling center of power in Washington, D.C.? Maybe the sprawling beaches of the West Coast?

Big cities no doubt attract millions to the country every year. It’s hard not to see a photo of skyscrapers scattered across the skyline of any big American city and not be impressed.

It’s also the image of America that is projected out to other countries. It’s easy to romanticize the big urban cities because of what we see in our pop culture.

To experience all America has to offer though, you have to spend times in towns not everyone knows. That is something international exchange students spending the semester at College of Coastal Georgia got to experience.

Six international exchange students have studied at Coastal Georgia this semester. Three, from Pakistan, are slated to return home this week. Three more from Tunisia will be staying until May. The students were looking forward to their chance to see what America had to offer.

“It was a different experience, studying in another country,” said Saman Khawaja, one of the exchange students from Pakistan. “And not only studying, but exploring the culture, traveling around and visiting different places, especially in a country that is well known all over the world … It was so appealing, when I heard about this, I was like ‘Yes, I am going to America.’”

The students hit a plethora of big cities on weekend trips, visiting cities like New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles to name a few.

But they also got the chance to spend a lot of time right here in the Golden Isles. We aren’t the bustling metropolis of those cities, but we offer a charm that the students themselves noticed.

“There are not so many things to do,” Khawaja said. “But this place is peaceful and it’s beautiful, especially the islands that are connected … It’s a fact that if you want to experience the real culture of America, you can see it in small cities, not the big cities.”

We couldn’t agree more with Khawaja. We hope the remaining students continue to explore the country to see what America has to offer.

For the three students heading back home this week, we hope you enjoyed your time here and learned a lot about what life is like in America. Feel free to come back anytime.

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