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Education

Five Ways to Make International Students Feel At Home

There are several ways to beat around the bush as you begin your life as a young, independent adult in university abroad. On the other hand, if you keep your eyes open and ears peeled on the many money-making opportunities, you can easily find options for some profitable side hustle. Remember to always research the dos and don’ts of where you are!

1. Let’s get to know each other!

I love my country, but I am more than the country I am from. Instead of telling a new international student facts or things you have heard about their country, try asking about what they like to do, their interests or hobbies. Who knows? Maybe you can refer them to a student club! Or talk about how to find a second-hand textbook for the class you are taking together (we all know how hard it is to score an affordable used textbook!).

2. Talk to strangers in class

Honestly, I learned this trick too late in the game. I wish I was brave enough then, moreover, I wish somebody had talked to me first. I’m sure all of us (at some point in our life) have come across difficult situations where we feel uncomfortable in a new place. Imagine being a student who moved over 12,000 km away from their home country and is trying to fit in. If you would like to get to know an international student, go ahead and start a conversation; it can ease their anxiety of having to be the first to speak.

3. Connect through our similarities and differences!

We might come from different countries, but we still share some similarities. I love Starbucks and Korean food (I met my best friend, who is Canadian, through our love for Starbucks) and I also love escaping Edmonton with my Canadian friends to go hiking in Banff. These are just a few examples of how students from different cultural backgrounds can connect through different activities, interests and hobbies.

4. Feel free to be curious.

International students might do something that is not normal for you but that doesn’t mean they do it to make you uncomfortable. Trying to understand why they do something in a certain way might spark an interesting discussion. It’s ok to be curious; ask what they are doing by saying something like: “I saw what you were eating and I’ve never tasted it before, what’s it like? Tell me more!”

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Last but not least, never assume — ASK! If you’re curious about something, just ask. I tend to be quiet when I’m in a new environment, but, as soon as someone starts a conversation with me, I open up. I love to talk about myself, but what I LOVE even more is getting to know other people!

Some topics to initiate a conversation: residence, textbooks, courses, or even family. It’s quite easy to come up with fun conversation — no need to overthink!

Some of you might think “OMG, am I doing the right thing?” some of you might worry “Am I saying appropriate things?” some of you might say “Will I offend them?”

At the end of the day, there is no one right answer on how to make a person feel welcome, but being sensitive, respectful, and flexible goes a long way to make new friends, especially with someone who comes from a different cultural background. It is nerve-wracking for both you and me! But you might also make a new friend, plus expand your intercultural understanding in the process.

5. Get involved with U of A International

Did you know you have an opportunity to volunteer, meet and make new friends from other countries through University of Alberta International? Located on the main floor in the Telus Centre, the International Services Centre (ISC) has a lot to offer and it’s not only for international students! The ISC is home to International Student Services (ISS), Education Abroad and the Global Education Program (which offers the Certificate in International Learning).

Becoming an ISS volunteer it is a great first step towards meeting international students, plus it’s a great chance for you to grow your UAlberta international community. How about expanding your world view? Attend International Week (February 3–7, 2020); and while you are at it, experience another culture and go study or work abroad!

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