I’ve been here in the United States for just a little under two years. In my time here at the University of Mount Union, I have been actively involved with anything that pertains to the international committee. That means that I have met a lot of international students and teaching assistants. I guess this is my way of belonging. I wanted international students to not only get along with one another, but to build friendships with their American peers as well. We all know that this takes both sides to make it work.
In my short time here at Mount Union, I have seen friendships formed and sadly, alienation. Everything feels great when everyone gets along, but when it doesn’t, it really ruins the atmosphere. I think (and hope) that this can be fixed, or at least prevented in the near future.
There are certain things that one should take note of when trying to blend in with the students from different nationalities.
1. Disregard all history between any nations.
I have seen, firsthand, foreign students who come here with a certain distaste for students from a particular nation due to the history between their nations. Honestly, I think that is just absolutely absurd. Things that had happened before you were born should not have an influence on you when you meet new people from different countries. Especially when we are all foreign students here in the USA. The world is, in many ways but not all, a better place now. Keep an open mind.
2. What’s happening now, is just politics.
Even if there are some problems between the nations at the moment, being here in the USA is like being on neutral ground. Do not bring political tensions over here because that just makes situations worse. Regardless of what’s happening, bringing the argument here in the USA does not help situations back home in any case whatsoever. Keep an open mind.
3. Stereotypes are bad… unless they’re true.
Do not take my title seriously. I have come to realize that there are just some stereotypes that are inevitably true. Even I admit to some stereotypes at times. However, one should always avoid using stereotypes to pick on people. Some may laugh it off, but some may be more sensitive to it than others. I think joking among friends is alright to a certain extent, but remember that once you take it too far, you are jeopardizing your relationship with that person. In any case, if someone says something stereotypical about you, laugh it off and be the better person. Keep an open mind.
4. Realize that the world is much bigger than you.
Everyone is proud of their heritage and where they come from. But that does not mean that you should shove it down someone else’s throat. It is good that you are very proud of where you come from, but others may think the same of their own heritage. The world would be a better place and better friendships would come from it if only everyone could keep an open mind.
5. Don’t spread the hate.
So you can’t get along with some people. Don’t go around trying to influence people. Don’t deliberately tell people about the conflicts so that people may take your side and turn on the other. Stay away but don’t spread the hate. Keep an open mind.
6. When all fails, remove yourself from any undesirable situation.
If you really cannot get along, then do not put yourself in a situation where you would have to interact with them. As president of the Association of International Students, I strongly urge everyone to not resolve things with this step. But if it means having a more peaceful campus where American and foreign students coexist in harmony (like that melting pot people in USA and back home in my Malaysia speak of), then please just do not go looking for trouble. If you don’t like them, don’t see them. But keep an open mind.
These are just some of my thoughts from observing, for the past year or so, how international students interact with one another and with American students. Some may not see things to be as bad as I may have made it sound, but I am just very alert to relations and communications between people of different cultures and backgrounds. I am a communication student after all.
At the end of the day, the one most important thing for one to do to get along with people that are different from them is to keep an open mind.