International students sometimes have trouble making American friends for the first time. They can assume American students don’t hang out with international students based on negative stereotypes.
“I think my several Chinese friends are struggling to make American friends,” said Di Chen, a student at University of Arizona. “Especially the difference in food is a difficult part for most of my Chinese friends.”
American students, meanwhile, believe that international students don’t enjoy social activities and extracurricular clubs because of cultural barriers.
It seems like each group is faulting the other.
But in fact, the belief that it’s hard to making international friends or American friends is a misconception. Both groups want to make friends in college; many Americans are open to friendships with international students – perhaps more so than other cultures – and many international students want to make American friends.
The National Communication Association’s Intercultural Friendship: Effects of Home and Host Region, explains that international students can gain global experience from friends. International student who put in the work of making American friends can reap improve their English, learn American culture, and fulfill a more well-rounded American education.
So how do you make friends as an international student? Here are three recommendations to make friends in the U.S.: attend cultural events, share your story, and enjoy common interests.
- Attend a cultural exchange event – many universities provide a lot of cultural exchange clubs, international student organizations, or religious groups. These events are good ways to have opportunity for making new friends. American participants who attend are already interested in another countries’ culture at a cultural exchange event. International students will have a great opportunity to teach about the culture, food, and customs.
- Share your story – all students are excited to have close friendships with others, and they need to feel a sense of belonging. If international students meet an American student on campus, they shouldn’t hesitate to start a conversation. American friends will be really glad, because even American students feel everything is new during freshmen year.
- Find common interests – if international students just share their own story about family, culture, friends from home, new friends may grow bored if there are no common interests. “Be outgoing, “said Chen. “I am not afraid to communicate with others. Usually I find the same hobby and share it.” Maybe you and your new friends like the same sports, music, or food. Find things that you share in common, and use those to bond with your new friends.
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to make both new American and international friends in college. Getting to know people in college will be the first step to expand your insight and experience about another culture and help you feel at home in a different country. And who knows – it may be the start of a lifelong friendship.
Jeonghyun Kim is a VOA intern for the English web desk. She is from South Korea, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Professional Studies in Journalism at Georgetown University.