Despite the huge number of international students on campus, many local students said that they don’t have international friends. At the same time, many international students complained that they can’t make American friends either.
Why do two birds in the same cage stay on their own side when they both want to meet each other?
“I always thought that is because (international students) are new to the country and want to grab onto what’s familiar,” said Teaching Assistant Jenna Pratt.
In the Stone Age, even earlier, people lived in groups. Do we initially tend to communicate and live with individuals who are similar to us?
The “popular girls” group in high school, “muscle men” in the gym, even the geese flock together in the sky.
There are advantages to being together with people who are similar to you. Some girls might feel inferior when they are around beauties; some guys cannot hold the barbells of “muscles”; a sparrow cannot fly with a goose because it has no chance of enduring such a long trip.
It is not because either one is better or worse. It’s because they are different. One must get over their differences in order to meet different people.
Language is the first stone in the way of communication. Research shows that in the first two years, most international students are still struggling with communicating in English.
“I think it has to go both ways,” said Joyce Meier, a writing professor at Michigan State University. “Sometimes American students don’t welcome fully the international students because sometimes they tend to be friends with each other, they went to highschool together, they know each other already, so they form their group very tight, and so it’s hard for someone from another culture to become their friends.”
When asked how he chose the seat in a big class, a student said that if there is someone he knows, he would definitely sit next to that person.
The response was the same for both American and international students, which seems to have only broadened the distance between new classmates.
When students were asked, “Will you talk first to the person sitting next to you or you will wait for him?” most people said wait.
“Sometimes I am not confident enough to talk to others, and I am always afraid of misunderstanding others because of the language,” said Yuxi Fan.
International Advisor Joy Walter said it’s a crucial step for all students to reach beyond cultural boundaries and that doing so can increase enjoyment of their college relationships.
“It’s important to know people who are different from you and to know the whole campus. Some students maybe not understand that,” said Walter. “It brings more values to your MSU experience if you do know some people from other countries.”
This campus is like a small world, every single individual has the opportunity to connect and exchange ideas with each other.
Meier said that it isn’t just language that we use to communicate. Sports, clubs or activities are often a good way to break the ice as well.
“For international students, they need to be brave and are willing to do something that might make them uncomfortable, start a conversation, approach someone they don’t know,” said Walter. “Not be embarrassed about what your English sounds like or think too much about it.”
Victor Wang said that he has a lot of different friends and that he doesn’t let the language barrier stop him from meeting others.
“I love new things and friends, that’s why I always be the first one to talk wherever I am. I am trying to take part in any activity I know and to communicate with people. Most people are much nicer than I thought,” said Wang.
On the way to meet different friends or on the way to reach the other bird in the same cage, Joy Walter said we have to push ourselves more.
“Try something and see how it goes,” said Walter. “Most time it would go much better than you probably think in your head. ”