- Friendly. The first and basic characteristic is to just be friendly. By kind and show that you are interested in the student. You first need to be friendly and genuine in order to do anything else. Once an international student feels welcomed by your kindness, they will open up and feel willing to trust you and be around you. My orientation group leader was one of the most kindest people; she was friendly and genuinely interested in what I had to say and know about me. Once I sensed that, I made an effort to meet her again and learn from her.
- Be accepting & inclusive.
Understand that an international student is different in terms of their upbringing and norms compared to an American, but it does not mean that they ought to not feel included. Accept an international student for who they are, being interested in their culture. Invite them to an event, study group or any trip to help them feel welcomed. This will also enable you to learn more about them whilst share your knowledge of the area too. Being shy or quiet does not mean they are uninterested. They are facing a whole new journey of life. Include an international student and help ease some of the fear and nerves they may feel.
- Be aware that what is normal for you is unusual to them.
Whilst talking to an international student or spending time with them, try to be aware that what is usual for you is new or unusual to them. As you speak try to be conscious of their facial expressions, which will assist in knowing whether they understand or not. Coming to America can be a culture shock to many as traditions here may be very different to their origins. For example ‘B-dubs’ here means Buffalo Wild Wings, but B-dubs and wild wings in general can be a very new concept to an international student. Similarly, make sure to not make the cultural difference a big-deal responding with ‘that’s weird!’ or likewise as that is their normal. Be respectful whilst being curious to learn and be interested about them. Take the time to understand their culture and be willing to explain certain American culture norms.
- Offer to help. Going places, joining clubs on campus, finding classes, shopping for groceries etc. can be difficult for a new student as the procedures or system can be very different to them. Especially giving them a ride to places can be extremely helpful, as Michigan relies on cars for transportation and getting a car can take some time for an international student. Offering to help and assist these students can be more beneficial than you will know. This time can for an international student can be confusing so giving them the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarity is essential.
- The golden rule. Lastly, just remember the golden rule- do unto others as you want done to you. Treat international students just how you would want to be treated if you were to go to their home. English, most likely, will not be their first language, and understanding American concepts might take them some time; be patient and give them the time they need. They are no different and deserve the same respect, concern and kindness that anyone else would.
Written by Kaitlyn Woods, editted by Lauren Jurczyszyn