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Deciding Where to Study: Intercultural Interactions in Universities

On one hand, universities have you, the international student who, once arrived in the new country, may instantly look for their own peers and be reluctant to form new bonds due to the fear of rejection (hello, culture shock!). On another hand, they have domestic students who might not want to make the first step in interacting with the newcomer.

When you two young individuals belonging to different cultures come into contact, finding the common codes and denominators can be a daunting task for both parties. Sure, the domestic student can very easily tuck away in their home-shelter, whereas the international student has nowhere to camouflage. Helping you synchronise with your cultures has to come from your university. And it’s something worth researching before choosing one university over the other.

How to blend internationals with domestic students?

To some extent, the sheer presence of internationals is not enough to promote and support intercultural interactions. These processes must be cultivated and encouraged through activities, modern learning strategies, and peer-pairing programmes.

Such activities have to tick off at least half, if not all, of the following:

  • Reduce potential stereotypes
  • Increase intercultural knowledge by sharing differences and enhancing the mutual understanding of the world
  • Assist newcomers to adapt to the new environment
  • Stimulate domestic students’ appetite for new
  • • Support cultural awareness by showcasing and sharing ethnic experiences
  • Enrich the university’s learning habitat (remember that internationals contribute to the diversity of the campuses and communities)
  • Support domestic students by improving their social skills, helping them gain new perspectives and developing their cultural sensitivities by engaging with people from different backgrounds
  • Offer the opportunity for nationals to learn new languages, traditions, and cultures
  • Foster and lay the foundation of international friendships

What activities do worldwide universities perform to promote cultural interactions?

Events and activities are meant to help you build global networks and, more importantly, have fun while studying along with domestic students. For example, Griffith University in Australia sets up beach excursions and cultural morning tea gatherings; organises National Harmony Weeks celebrated with delicious food, music, and games; and has quiz-style international trivia events. In the US, Western Illinois University hosts the International Bazaar every spring, where students decorate booths displaying their culture, dance, perform, and cook their authentic food. Other activities here include the International Coffee Hour, an event that highlights a country’s tea and coffee culture, and an International Neighbours event organised for purposes of cross-cultural exchange.

In Japan, Hiroshima Shudo University organises volunteer programmes where their international students can teach Korean, Chinese, and English classes to students interested in their language. The National University of Singapore in Asia sets up a Community Engagement Programme to promote understanding of the various faiths and cultures within their student community; some of these include the Hindu Society, Malay Language Society, Tamil Language Society, Indian Cultural Society, and Sikh Cultural & Literary Society. The Technical University of Munich in Germany boasts about Language Café events for internationals to improve their German and for domestic students to speak foreign languages in an informal setting over free coffee and cakes. Chung-Ang University in South Korea invites students to experience traditional Korean music, try out various musical instruments, and take part in the Hanbok Wearing Experience, where students learn how to wear traditional Korean dresses.

To this, many universities and colleges offer the so-called “buddy” programme, which entails pairing one international student with one national student. Buddies will offer linguistic support (if they don’t speak the language of the international student, conversations are usually held in English), guidance, information about living and learning at the university, campus tours, personal uni experiences and stories, and more. Being helped and welcomed by a friendly face can make a huge difference for newcomers.

The ultimate win-win

A university that has international students like yourself to study there is a win-win both for domestic students and for foreigners as well. By experiencing cultural differences, one becomes more complex, tolerant, and well educated and is able to relate and open oneself to intercultural relationships. By being exposed to different cultures, both groups gain an understanding that attracts opportunities and helps construct a more elaborate view of the world. This is not just nice to have during studies but after graduation as well. It’s something to cherish for life. And it starts under the roof of your chosen university.

You will, of course, have thousands of other reasons to look out for when choosing a university to study at, but keep in mind that an institution that stimulates a conversation between their domestic and international students, two representatives of countries miles apart from each other, is a keeper.

Why Diversity Exposure Is Important In Early Education Development

The United States is considered a melting pot because of the mixture of cultures and traditions found here. While we celebrate this diversity, students receive an education that does not always expose them in the most beneficial way. There are several reasons why a child should be introduced to different cultures at an early age. Through language development, social skills, and acceptance of varying traditions, education plays a crucial part in a child’s foundation.

Language Opens Doors

In recent years, schools have been incorporating dual-language programs. Schools like the International School of MN begin teaching world languages from native speakers to kids as early as pre-school. Studies show that not only do bilingual children develop better reading and writing comprehension, but it’s also good for their health and brain function. Schools committed to diversity and language programs scored as much as 32 per cent higher than the national average. Research also shows that those who learn more than one language grasp mathematics and are able to solve problems better than students who speak just one language.

Diversity Gives Understanding

Children introduced to diversity at a young age acquire stronger social skills and are more receptive to those who speak a different language than their parents. According to research, these children are open to imitation regardless of language, which demonstrates their willingness to learn. Immersing children in culturally diverse activities gives them the opportunity to become more comfortable with the difference in race, religion, language, and lifestyle. International school and Foreign Exchange Student programs allow students the opportunity to interact with others that look and speak in a way they aren’t familiar with. As this becomes the norm, a child’s tolerance and open-mindedness for others increases.

Success in Career

Exposing children to diversity early on can have an impact on how successful they are as adults. According to a study which recorded youths from seven countries, children between 4 and 15 years old rejected unfair deals that gave others advantages and disadvantages. By learning to work with others regardless of status or race, children will incorporate those attitudes well into adulthood. Fairness and equality can be a matter of common sense versus an area of inexperience.

Give your child the opportunity to learn and grow as young as possible. Allow them the chance to develop multi-language skills and expose them to different cultural experiences. As you do so, their world views will surely become more open-minded and aware. The future lies within the young, providing them with the opportunity to learn will surely have a great impact on society in the long run.

Article submitted by Meghan Belhap, a freelance writer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Why Study Languages Abroad?

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There are so many benefits to learning a new language.

You’ll develop a brand new set of skills, immerse yourself in a different culture and discover a new way of thinking. Having more than one language on your CV is also very impressive to employers, and it can open up a world of opportunities for work, travel and leisure.

Nowadays, you can learn a language pretty much anywhere. You can study languages at college, undertake a modern languages degree at university, or study online with the help of popular websites and apps. But there is nothing better than studying a language in its country of origin. Here’s why you should always consider studying a foreign language abroad.

1. Meet new people

Moving abroad can be daunting. But when you study languages abroad, you’ll meet people from all over the world. There will be other language students in exactly the same position as you, and finding a group of friends to help you get to grips with the language is important.

2. Learn the local lingo

Studying overseas will open up a whole world of language that you can’t learn in a textbook. You’ll equip yourself with a different type of language – one that’s informal, chatty and full of common phrases and sayings. You’ll become a confident communicator, with a whole wealth of knowledge.

3. You’ll speak it every day

Practice makes perfect! When you study a language in the comfort of your home country, it’s easy to become lazy and put off practising. But abroad, you’ll have no choice but to speak it every day. This can seem scary, but it’s one of the best ways to get outside of your comfort zone and get talking to people.

4. Understand body language

People don’t just communicate with words. When you can see someone’s body language, it’s easier to take in what they’re saying. Languages like Italian for example, rely more heavily on gestures and facial expressions to communicate. This is important to understand if you want to communicate fluently with a new culture.

5. Immerse yourself in culture

Repeating phrases from a textbook can only get you so far. But getting out into the world and immersing yourself in a new culture will improve your conversational skills. Simple tasks like ordering food in a restaurant, asking for directions, buying a bus ticket or going to the cinema can suddenly become fascinating and exciting parts of life.

6. Boost your employability

If you’re looking to work abroad at some point in your life, give yourself a head start by studying abroad too. As an international student, you’ll gain a level of understanding about what it’s like to work and study in your chosen country. Having these customs and experiences can make you much more attractive to employers.

7. Learn to observe

Moving abroad might be scary to you, but you’ll gain skills that you never knew you had. For example, if you’re used to being the centre of attention, you’ll learn to sit back and observe. Overhearing conversations that other people are having – at university, in lectures or in the street – will open your eyes (and ears) to a new way of thinking.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our other subject guides.

 

Small Colleges Competing for International Students: How Do They Keep Up with The Big Boys?

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly pave the way for massive takeovers on the hearts of thousands of high school students ready to say “I do” to the best university that sweeps them off their feet. Effective marketing methods require universities to have significant budget spends that depend on what they want to order from the marketing menu. Be that as it may, money can’t buy happiness. Regardless of the menu, unis and colleges can’t get closer to their international students if their branding efforts come across as austere and completely focused on “selling” rather than “offering.”

This is something that smaller yet successful colleges and universities know and use in their favour. Going against marketing instincts and adopting a personal and intimate attitude is what sets them apart and gives them the ultimate edge to keep up with the big boys of higher education. A sense of community/belonging and familiarity goes a long way, and it should be included in every university’s international campaign menu as chef’s special.

International students in the USYasmin Pineda Segura, Admission Counsellor at Wesleyan College in the US, confirms this and explains how important it is for them to have a direct relationship with students like you. The school’s long history and colourful approach to education played an important role in supporting this mindset. Founded in 1836, Wesleyan was the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women. In the 2017-2018 academic year, the college welcomed and supported 33 international students throughout their entire stay and studying. This round-the-clock loyalty and assistance can help universities cash in on something more valuable than money: your trust, the students’ trust.

Welcoming nearly 700 students from across the US and more than 17 countries, with 30% minorities and 25% internationals, Wesleyan was ranked the fourth-most diverse college in Georgia, US (source: Niche). And rightly so. We invite you to read an inspirational interview with Segura from Wesleyan to find out how a small college with a big heart can become home to international students from China, Mexico, Ireland, Taiwan, Guatemala, Japan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Nigeria, and more.

The first hello

“There are few well-targeted activities that we think work best for recruiting new international students. For example, we make the most of what the internet can offer, we maximise brochure and magazine use. However, we put a lot of thought and effort into having our current students share their experience through their eyes, spreading out the word about their life at Wesleyan.”

The cycle of transition

“We do everything in our power to help internationals feel welcome at Wesleyan. I answer their emails in less than 12 hours. I treat them as a person, not as a number. I provide them with information about campus activities, details on arrival matters and visa processing. Sharing my experience as an expat in this country and understanding their fear is a massive icebreaker for my first interaction with them. I put them in contact with current international students so that as soon as they arrive, they already have friends waiting for them on campus.”

Holding hands

“When international students struggle to adapt to the new culture, we offer them emotional support, according to their needs. When new students arrive, we take them for short trips around the city, we take them to eat, to shop and invite them to my house as host family for dinners.”

The link between domestic and international

“I think the most common fear domestic students have concerning internationals is saying a comment that will offend their culture, about their food, tradition, or religion. So far Wesleyan students adapt pretty well to international students.”

The stages of culture shock

“And the most common fear that internationals face during their first year is the accent of the language. South Georgia, US, has an strong accent. Also, they fear that they won’t find their new home easy; the weather, the food is different. Plus, they don’t have the freedom to move because they don’t have a car in the new country upon arrival.”

Shaking the blues

“To get these two groups ready to interact with one another, we organise a fair with our clubs the first week of class. Students can join the clubs and meet current students, and they also join weekend orientation with local students as well, not just from Wesleyan.”

University expectations versus realities

“There is a long list of what international students should expect from their study abroad adventure in the US. From what I’ve seen, students love the US culture and the easy way to travel around the country to visit big cities. It takes them a few days to learn about currency and transportation. Every state, of course, has different rules on different aspects, but we at Wesleyan College try to provide the best experience to our international students.”

The one and only

“For me, the main qualities that international students should possess to be able to make the most of their overseas studies are to be responsible, dedicated students and focus on their studies to be successful in their courses.”

The best thing

“The best thing about working with international students is that every student has a different story; they want to have an opportunity away from home, they want this to be a success, and they do everything to achieve their goals. They are dedicated and respectful. They definitely appreciate your job.”