American students can benefit greatly from befriending their peers from other nations. However, this may take a proactive approach. Many international students desire to make friends with Americans, but struggle to do so (Grayson, 2008). I am currently working on a research project investigating the cultural awareness and competence of American students. In my previous research, I have also learned much about international and American students’ friendships and collaborative relationships. Unfortunately, many American students feel that the onus of responsibility rests solely on international students to reach out. However, international students are not necessarily the people losing out on this belief. While international students desire to have more contact with their American peers, they continue to find success despite this (Curtin, Stewart, & Ostrove, 2013; Zhai, 2004). Rather, I believe that American students are the people losing out by failing to reach out to their international counterparts. Therefore, I encourage American students to reach out to any international students that they may encounter for these reasons:
- You can improve your knowledge and understanding of other cultures, which can improve your chances of getting a job. This is especially important for American students as the workforce in the 21st century requires a greater understanding of other cultures and belief systems (Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2005). You may not have to agree with others beliefs, but you need to understand them and celebrate the differences.
- American students who interacted with international students reported greater personal skill development than those who did not (Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2013). If an American student is enrolled in higher education, they are obviously trying to improve their skill set. Since, interactions with international students led to better skill development, it would only make sense to seek out these interactions.
- You will learn things about yourself that you never thought possible. Your simple acts will be embraced by your international peers as thoughtful and kind. You will hear stories of untold persecution and challenges that will make your life seem easier by comparison. You may even find that you can see the viewpoints of others and can understand where they are coming from. This empathy will help you in a number of areas of life. If you would like to read about my experiences with international students please click here.
While these points seek to show how American students can benefit from interaction with international students, I must also stress that Americans should benefit international students as well. Every American student should seek to help international students with their struggles and challenges to improve the overall experience in higher education. I will not go into the benefits for international students on this post, but I may in the future.
Therefore, rather than looking at international students as outsiders, try to embrace them and show them that they are truly welcome in the United States, even if the media would make them believe otherwise. America was built on immigrants trying to improve their lives and get a piece of the American dream. Instead of seeing those from other nations as competition, welcome the idea that they can become some of your greatest friends and colleagues regardless of their background or home nation.
Curtin, N., Stewart, A. J., & Ostrove, J. M. (2013). Fostering academic self-concept advisor support and sense of belonging among international and domestic graduate students. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 108–137. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831212446662
Grayson, J. P. (2008). The experiences and outcomes of domestic and international students at four Canadian universities. Higher Education Research & Development, 27(3), 215–230. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360802183788
Luo, J., & Jamieson-Drake, D. (2013). Examining the educational benefits of interacting with international students. Journal of International Students, 3(2), 85–101.
Zhai, L. (2004). Studying international students: Adjustment issues and social support. Journal of International Agriculture and Extension Education, 11(1), 97–104.
Zhao, C.-M., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2005). A comparison of international student and American student engagement in effective educational practices. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 209–231. https://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2005.0018
I recently completed my PhD in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) at the University of Wyoming. I have published multiple articles in peer reviewed journals and have a book chapter coming early next year. I aim to explore issues of privilege and equity of education, especially as they pertain to STEM education.