American students and international students are very inclusive with each other academically.
But not so much personally.
It is not any discrimination that I am talking about, but an invisible barrier, and the barrier is created by both sides.
Because of cultural differences, it can take a long time for American students to become real friends with international students. By saying international students, I refer to international students in college who did not receive previous education in the U.S. As expected, language is part of the problem, but culture can be the unbridgeable barrier in the relationship between American students and international students.
For example, the way American students get along with friends is different with the way international students do. American students don’t typically eat meals with their friends during weekdays. They are always seen doing things alone while in school. You can only see American students gathering together in a party or during “happy hours,” times when restaurants and bars offer discounts on food and drink.
But in Chinese culture, eating is a group activity. Chinese see eating as a great situation to gather, talk and relax.
I came with a group of Chinese students from the same program, which made the beginning of my study abroad experience easier, since I don’t have to deal with everything on my own. But this, typically, is how Chinese students build their wall against American students.
Chinese students always appear in small packs together. They go everywhere together, including restrooms and laundry. I would call these small packs their comfort zones. As part of a pack before, I can say it really is comfortable staying in a little pack of Chinese students. We speak the same language, and we like the same food, we are not exposed to anything new or unfamiliar in our circle, and that made me feel safe and protected.
I saw a statistic from a random website that says only 1-in-4 international students are invited to a local American’s house. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but I believe it.
That statistic makes it seem like American’s fault not to invite international students. But this is actually a mutual misunderstanding and cultural difference. No one is to blame, but we all need to change.
I did not know what stereotypes were until I started communicating with American students. I thought the understandings in my head about this community were accurate and factual, but then I realized that I’m terribly wrong.
It is the same for American students. As more and more Chinese students come to the States, they are beginning to realize that we are not nerds and all straight-A students, and that we are not all good at math.
So I think the trend of more international students coming to the States is a good sign and will improve international relations between the countries. Through mutual understanding, we gradually eliminate misunderstanding and stereotypes between different cultures and learn to see other cultures in a different way.
Have you felt like an outside in America? Do you stay with your own kind? Please tell us in the comments, and post on our Facebook page, thanks!