The Study-Abroad Experience & Cross-Cultural Friendships


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”It is important that academicians and educational administrators incorporate sufficient scope for students to make cross-cultural friendships”

“Living abroad should mean loving abroad,” said Marina Meijer, a TEDx Talks speaker, defending studying abroad. The study-abroad experience is more than just about studying – It is about learning. It makes students richer and well-equipped individuals.

Following the heart and heading out into international terrain is a challenge. Let’s not discount prejudice, cultural gaps, homesickness, and adjustment issues. Integrating into another community need not be so much of a fuss despite all that. Students have to pick up challenges as they come.

Over the semester, students can develop friendships that help cultural immersion. It is important that academicians and educational administrators incorporate sufficient scope for students to make cross-cultural friendships.

A few benefits of acculturation:

  • Novelty: A variety of people collaborating gives students the opportunity to see problems from a new perspective or offer insights that had not been thought of before.
  • Personal Transformation: As students start to become proficient in one thing, they need encouragement for the next. They might be self-motivated, but having work-groups and course clubs might help them interact with multinationals better. They grow as individuals and it equips them better to set out for their different career paths.
  • Network: Students may tend to make friends with those from their community. International networking helps build creativity and teaches important lessons in teamwork and communication.
  • Empathy: This ability to climb under another’s skin, walk around in their shoes for a bit. Empathy is vital to overcoming prejudice and narrow nationalism. It helps crack difficult people and complex situations at microcosmic levels.
  • Cultural Intelligence: This is a vital skill set to be able to work efficiently and relate to people who do not come from the same background.
  • Experiential Learning: New activities, experiences, and information like learning a new language, visiting a museum, or simply boarding a bus in a foreign land, exposes students to new things. It creates new neural connections that build on each other and create an optimal environment for learning.

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Engaging in co-curricular and extracurricular activities like clubs, sports, community events, and tutor programs ensures that guest students integrate with the community, interact with people, and understand the way others live. International educational administrators need to incorporate these activities upon or before the arrival of students on campus.

“Investing in students and the educated youth of the nations will ultimately help build meaningful ‘glocal’ friendships”

It is important that international educators develop a plan for the benefit of the overseas student community.

Here’s a things-to-do list for international educators:

  • Establish intercultural platforms like clubs, community events, coffee-house discussions, social events, etc.
  • Host inclusive Model United Nations conferences so students can play delegates and become sensitive to contemporary world issues.
  • Encourage students to talk about issues in their native lands so they form strong opinions and grow in their identity
  • Create educational content that is relevant to international student affairs
  • Develop good hiring and job exchange programs in the global market
  • Enable digital learning and interaction for better access and collaboration of skills and knowledge
  • Assess student performances and provide them with a list of developmental opportunities and programs

While students need to be self-responsible and auto-motivated, educators also need a skill set of competencies to guide students through their educational journey. International educators are major stakeholders in helping students think critically, master a foreign second language, work in multinational teams, facilitate cross-cultural communication, widen job horizons, and in improving access and opportunities to thrive.

Investing in students and the educated youth of the nations will ultimately help build meaningful ‘glocal’ friendships. Innovation, progressive thought, acceptance, and other human values will follow as consequence. It is a long-term investment in the human race which will engineer a generation for a better tomorrow.

This article first appeared on July 12, 2018 at https://blog.thepienews.com/2018/07/the-study-abroad-experience-cross-cultural-friendships/

About the author: Ethan Miller is an online ESL instructor and EdTech enthusiast based in Illinois.