Friendships within International and Domestic Students

Abstract

International students are highly beneficial to various US domestic universities. They aid in the inculcation of intercultural learning. Besides, they enhance global diversity within institutions, thus fostering the economic growth of the US. Amid these benefits, such students encounter various challenges, which hinder their interaction and integration levels with the domestic students. These problems include language barriers, differences in culture, and challenges in academic adjustments. There exists little research in studies on how international students can be fully integrated with the domestic students in the effort to resolve their challenges while studying in foreign environments. Through the deployment of the interview as the primary tool for research, this recommended research paper identifies various challenges encountered by international students, which hinder them from establishing relationships with domestic students. Various alternative solutions are then proposed in the effort to prescribe and recommend the most effective solution to ensure that international students are able to integrate with domestic students within the US’ institutions of higher learning.

Executive Summary

International students who fail to make friendships with domestic students encounter several challenges articulated to adapting to cultural changes. Inappropriate fit within the campus also makes some international students perform poorly in learning English as their second language and the language through which the university curriculum is administered. International students are important in American universities not only in economic terms but also in helping increase the diversity tolerance of the American population. This helps Americans appreciate the significance of global cultures in the effort to promote globalization and internationalization. For students to embrace the diversity of global cultures brought into the US by international students, it is necessary that domestic and International students form friendships and good relationships.

Unfortunately, this expectation is not the case since evidence derived from studies on different US universities shows that more than 38 percent of international students do not have close domestic student friends. In this recommendation research paper, the focus is to establish the reasons for the existence of this problem together with making suggestions on the possible solutions to the problem. International students are nervous and worried about making mistakes while engaging in conversations with international students. Universities are structured such that international students report a week earlier than the domestic students do. The first opportunity to make friendships involves two or more international friends. International students are also less aware of the current topical and key issues hitting public concerns in the US. This leaves them with minimal opportunities to engage the domestic students in various debates. The paper suggests various solutions to this problem. After their comparison, one solution is recommended following the criteria of implementation, cost, time, and human resource requirements.

Background

The discourses of institutions of higher learning are shaped by the concepts of globalization and internationalization. The concepts shape the university programs together with services in the effort to ensure that students develop multicultural awareness in the effort to foster responsiveness to cultural diversities. Higher institutions of learning, which are diverse, aid in enabling students to live with others who are brought up in different ways. Adherence to the perspective of internationalization makes institutions of higher learning in the US focus on strategies of attraction coupled with the retention of international students.

Globalization and internationalization are political forces influencing the functions of institutions of higher learning within a society (Asmar 295). Across all educational institutions in the US, such as universities and colleges, international students are important in the advancement of internationalization paradigms of breaking global physical demarcations for different nations so that the world becomes borderless. In classroom settings, international students increase diversity. The international students in the communities introduce significant social, cultural, educational, and economic benefits.

Unfortunately, these benefits cannot be explored fully when international students do not have opportunities or capabilities to establish relationships with their domestic counterparts. When the hindrances to the establishment of relationships with domestic students are eliminated, international students have the ability to introduce intercultural together with international perspectives in the communities and the classroom. This increases the perspectives from which domestic students view the world. In fact, knowledge on the global contexts has the ability to increase the US’ innovation coupled with competitiveness levels besides enhancing the opportunities for learning and research.

When international students go back home, they take with them perspectives of the American culture. This enhances the growth of intercultural understanding across the globe. This implies that bringing together students from the international community into one classroom has the merit of enhancing not only the intercultural understanding but also helping students build peer relationships, which may increase the diplomatic interest and trade interest among different nations in the future. These benefits are incredibly important while working, living, and interacting in a world of growing complexity in terms of interconnectedness and diversity (Crump 27). However, the benefits of interactions between international and domestic students in the US institutions of higher learning may fail to be realized if challenges in establishing relationships between the two groups of students persist. Based on this hypothetical paradigm, the focus of this paper is to study why international students are not making relationships and/or friendships with domestic students. Therefore, the paper proposes possible solutions to the problem.

Problem description

Interactions through friendship and relationships between international and domestic students are crucial to foster learning and knowledge sharing. Based on my observations in the university, there are problems of interactions and integration of international and domestic students. Therefore, this research seeks to look for better solutions for the problem of international students who are not making friendships and/or relationships with domestic students. Seeking solutions to the current problem under investigation is important since the lack of interactions between international and domestic students influences international students in various ways. For instance, international students fail to acquire skills such as communication fluency, which is a skill they could have learned if given adequate interactions with domestic students. International students also experience nervousness when they are with domestic students who are better exposed to the American culture. Considering their challenges of effective communication in English, nervousness makes conversations and interactions with the domestic students even more challenging. Hence, in most situations, international students resort to avoidance of domestic students.

The problems of poor interaction and conversation with the domestic students severely affect the efforts of internationalization and globalization pursued by different nations across the globe. In the university settings, unless appropriate effective measures to curb the problems are deployed, international students will continue to face challenges of free interactions and integration with domestic students even in the future. Poor relations between domestic and international students can also influence the performance of students in schools. Consequently, looking for solutions to the problems has the implications of not only enhancing the embracement of cultural diversities of different students but also the implications of enhancing the performance of students, with their nationalities notwithstanding.

Approach to the Problem’s Solutions

I am a student at the campus. This implies that I have direct access and an opportunity to interact with various leaders and officers within the campus directly. Hence, I have easy access to resources such as the capacity to have interactions with different key personalities such that it becomes easy to conduct interviews. The researcher will also use direct observation to look for the manner in which international and domestic students interact, behave after meeting and/or while conversing with one another. The main issues under observation are struggles in communicating in English, the people that the international students prefer interacting with, and the most prevalent topics during discussions.

An interview will also be conducted with an international program specialist and an international student assistant. The interview with the international students’ representative is anticipated to be incredibly helpful in this research since he understands international students better in terms of their interaction and integration issues with domestic students. The interviewee is also expected to be helpful in the process of enumeration of viable solutions for the resolution of the challenges encountered by international students. The international students’ specialist will be of massive help in the research since he is specifically trained in matters of resolution of groups’ conflicts involving people of different cultural backgrounds. He is also well acquitted with alternatives that can work well for international students. Upon merging the results of the two interviews, a solution that works optimally for all international students will be developed.

Causes of the Problem

There are several causes of problems experienced by international students in the process of formation of friendships and relationships with domestic students. The environment for the establishment of friendships and relationships is minimal. While living on the campus as foreigners, international students only establish relationships and friendships during classes. The establishment of good group relationships requires an effective and engaging conversation between two or more people. Unfortunately, international students fear making mistakes so that domestic students do not talk about them. International students are also not well acquitted with local vocabularies and slang.

In particular, slang is a major challenge, which hinders the full participation of international students in debates and dialogue with domestic students due to the difficulties of digging out hidden meanings of words. When slang is used, international students feel left out in debates. A major assumption among such students is slang, which is deployed so that they do not get to know that the domestic students are talking about them. In some situations, international students have the urge to engage in conversations with local domestic students. However, they encounter challenges on topics of discussion. They may also not be aware of what interests the domestic students so that the international students can only smile in some situations while the domestic students engage stiffly in debates on topical issues related to the US.

The problems encountered by international students with regard to the formation of friendships and/or relationships with domestic students have several effects. The more international students interact with fellow international students, the more they are unable to improve their English proficiency levels. This suggests that international students require the assistance of natives to improve their written and oral communication in the English language. The international students feel nervous. Hence, it is impossible for them to know the appropriate answers to their mistakes. In some cases, the Native Americans may want to engage in conversations with the international students, but their English fluency levels turn them (natives) off. Lack of shared topics implies that people cannot seek opinions or talk about a given topic under discussion. For international students facing these challenges, it implies that they cannot participate in the discussion of new developments in America. Consequently, they only hear and see natives Americans. Solutions to the problems of the establishment of friendship and relationships among domestic and international students need to change these effects so that international students become more engaged and aware of new developments within the nations where they are schooling.

Possible Solutions

The following four solutions have the potential for solving the problem.

  1. Formation of international students club
  2. Creation of international friends program
  3. Changing of university structures
  4. Creation of diversity awareness campaign capturing the entire university communities

Formation of the International Students Club

In the effort to prescribe possible solutions to the problem of building relationships and friendships between international students and domestic students, it is important for various situations forming the background to the formulation of the solutions are considered. A club may be established within the campus to give a room for international students to interact with domestic students. Through the club, international students can also learn about domestic students’ customs. This provides an amicable opportunity for students to integrate within society. This claim is perhaps an ideal way of ensuring that international and domestic students get an opportunity to share ideas and thoughts together with their cultural values.

However, the reality of the situation is that international students find it difficult to fit into local groups. Another drawback is that domestic students mostly go to their native homes over the weekends. These would leave the club fully dominated by international students. It is likely that some international students may resist from joining the club. To deal with this challenge, professors in charge of the club can consider giving incentives such as free membership and free games, among others. The president of the club could provide word games and books or hold some movie nights, which would play some good and new movies or soap series to enhance the number of words. The president can also collect the newest news happening at a fixed period and itemize different styles of topics to hand out when the club has organized small meetings or email those topics to international students.

International Friends Program

International friends program is essentially a buddy program. Through the program, domestic students act as guides for international students. This way, international students are able to assimilate into American college life. Offering such hospitality implies that international students would always seek any aid from the domestic students since they will become accustomed to the perception that the domestic students are the ones who are well acquitted with the campus. Although the chances are that the international students would develop a dependency on the domestic students through the program, the program increases opportunities for interactions between the international students and the domestic students.

Dependency syndrome is a major threat to building long-term friendships. Friendship is two-way traffic. While domestic students will help the international students assimilate into the American college life, they will also anticipate gaining some aid from the international students in some other forms. This means that domestic students who the international students want to establish friendships through the international friend’s program must appreciate that the international students have some potential that they do not have. Hence, the two groups of students need to trust and be loyal and comfortable with each other. They must appreciate and cognize their differences as strengths for building stronger and reliable relationships. This challenge reduces to that of embracing other people’s diversities and differences in talent and ability potential.

Changing of University Structures

The university is structured such that the international students arrive first. When the domestic students arrive on campus, a week later, they find international students already having established possible friendship links. Such structures only create an opportunity for international students to meet only international students the first day when they get to the campus. Consequently, in classes, international students also get to sit together. This creates the impression that international students interact best with other international students. To resolve this challenge, the university needs to alter its admission criteria such that all students report on the same date. Where this may not be possible because of human resource constraints to take care of all admission and clerical works, admission dates can be set according to faculties or years of study, rather than international vs. domestic students’ criteria.

In the freshman classes, international students are separated from their domestic students’ counterparts due to different requirements for each group of students. While this strategy is crucial in helping international students develop a fundamental starting point in a new education environment, it also limits the probabilities of interactions between domestic and international students. Again, this problem requires structural changes. Special units can be created for the international students, but they need to be taught concurrently with other units taught to both groups of students. This can enable international students to gain equal footing in making friends with both domestic and international students.

Creating Diversity Awareness Campaign capturing the entire University Communities

A university is an institution bringing together people from different backgrounds. International students feel that they are less suited in higher learning institutions located hundreds of miles away from their native homes. On the other hand, domestic students may feel that they own the institution by virtue of the fact that it is located within their home country. While such a situation creates inferiority and superiority complexes, respectively, perceptions of diversity differences may also create friction in the process of development of friendship and relationships between international and domestic students.

Developing and investing in a diversity awareness campaign within the university is an incredible effort towards the resolution of this challenge. The campaigns are essential tools for fostering cultural interactions coupled with evaluations of the commitment of different parties forming the university community on ensuring full integration of all students and staff into the university cultures that are not determined by different cultural affiliations of different members of the community. Through the campaigns, it is possible for students to establish similar areas of interest, such as sports, foods, and platforms for the exchange of cultural stories. This creates a desire for all students to learn different things from one another. This effort is an important step towards the formation and sustenance of new friendships.

Comparison of Solutions

Although different solutions can resolve a single problem, the selection of the best alternative is the main concern of analysis and comparison with different solutions to a given problem. Table 1 below illustrates the comparison of the different solutions proposed for the resolution of the problem of failure of international and domestic students to establish relationships and/ or friendships.

Table 1: Comparison of Solutions.

Solution Time Human resource requirements Groups of people engaged Cost
  1. Formation of international students’ club
One semester Club president, matron, secretary, and treasurer International and domestic students Varies depending on the number of members
  1. International students friends program
Continuous Program administrator, program evaluators, and subordinate staff to implement the program International and domestic students $ 250,000 per year
  1. Change of university structures
1 academic year Nil International and domestic students Nil
  1. Creating diversity awareness campaign capturing the entire university communities
Continuous Campaign administrators, event organizers, and events ushers International students, Domestic students, and local communities including parents and tutors $ 300, 000 per year

From table 1, the creation of a diversity awareness campaign is the most expensive solution, followed by the creation of international friends program. The cheapest solution is the alteration of university structures since it does not require any additional human resources and incurring the related costs. The solutions result in the engagement of different groups of people forming the university fraternity. The creation of diversity awareness campaigns engages international students, local communities, and even domestic students. The other three solutions only engage domestic students and international students.

Recommendations

Considering the various solutions established in the above sections, each of the solutions has different requirements for its success in the resolution of the problem of the failure of international students to form a friendship and/or relationships with domestic students. Solution 1 has the least time of implementation since a club can be formed and be operational within one semester. Although both international and domestic students can be engaged in the club, its activities would essentially be conducted over the weekends. At this time, most of the domestic students would have gone to spend time with their families. This limits the number of domestic students engaged due to unwillingness to forfeit from visiting their families to spend time establishing relationships with international students on the campus.

Solution 2 is continuous and requires the commitment of university resources to create ways for engagement of the domestic and international students. Solution three ensures that a probability is created for the international students to meet domestic students on the first day of reporting to campus. Although the solution does not require additional human resources to implement it, it does not consider mechanisms of creating friendships and relationships between international and domestic students after admissions are complete. It does not also consider what would happen in case the chances of establishing friendships with domestic students encountered first are lost. The assumption is that when an opportunity is provided for establishing a relationship, it is never lost. Through it, an international student acquires other opportunities to establish relationships and friendships with other domestic students through friends of the domestic student encountered first.

Among the four solutions, I recommend solution 4. Although it is the most expensive solution, it provides avenues for addressing challenges affecting the capacity of international students to initiate friendships and relationships with domestic students, but also incorporate local communities and all other stakeholders from the university fraternity. This translates to better integration of the international students not only within the university but also within the communities from which the domestic students come. Hence, it is possible to break the negative stereotype and perceptions associated with international students and their abilities, including effective communication in the English language.

Feasibility

Solution 4 is feasible both in the short and long term. The university spends a lot of money on students’ welfare projects. The international students pump a lot of money to US universities. Since the goal of the university is to ensure that students acquire the most conducive environment for studying to enhance their career growth, investing in the programs for bettering integration and adaptability of international students is consistent with the goal of the university. Indeed, the resources required for the implementation of the solution are readily available at the university. All that is required is the budgetary allocation to fund the program.

Special Concerns

Investing in programs for enhancing integration of international students is important for career development of the students and minimization of cultural and diversity frictions between them and the domestic students. Upon considering solution 4 as the most expensive solution and recommended for resolution of the challenges of non-establishment of friendship and relationships between international and domestic students, a special concern is that the program is not worth the expense. Some critics may argue that international students school in the US’ universities and then relocate back home to develop their native nations. Hence, it is not necessary to invest in costly programs in the argument that the program would enhance integration of the students in the university. However, different nations want to increase their diplomatic understanding in the effort to enhance global sharing of resources. Consequently, even though the international students relocate back to their native nations after studying in the U.S. based universities, they are still part of global talent pool.

Conclusion

International students experience challenges in establishing relationships and friendships with domestic students. These challenges are explained by different cultural affiliations, negative perceptions and stereotyping, and communication barrier. While various solutions to the problems were proposed in the paper, investing in programs for creating diversity awareness was recommended as the most effective solution amid its high cost. The solution can resolve the core and the root causes of the problems of domestic students shunning away from relating with their international counterparts. Differences between people are dependent on the environmental exposures. Consequently, people have different cultures, languages, and various physical differences. Learning to adapt to new ways of life, including communication fluency when exposed to a different environment, is accompanied by making mistakes.

Interviews

The solutions suggested in the recommendations paper are derived from contributions made by two main interviews. The first interview was done with the international student representative while the second interview was done with the international program specialist.

Interview 1

Interviewer: Hello, good morning sir. Please introduce yourself and your roles at the institution.

Interviewee: My name is Mr. Johnston Kelly. I am the international student’s representative at the University.

Interviewer: Do you think the international students have problems in establishing friendships with domestic students? And what are the likely causes of the problems?

Interviewee: Yes. A new country exposes students to totally new schooling environment with different curriculum, culture and different languages among other challenges. Assimilating new ways of life and dealing with diversity differences constitutes a major challenge that international students must endure while developing tolerance to certain ways of doing things opposed to their local cultures. This only makes international students feel like they are aliens attempting to colonize new lands. Hence, they tend to associate with only students who are like them.

Interviewer: What next? Should we live with problems?

Interviewee: No! No! A solution must be found.

Interviewer: What sort of solutions can resolve the problem?

Interviewee: Awareness programs can go far in helping realize that being born a native English speaker does not make you a better student. International students also need to realize that they are not unique and inferior compared to the domestic students. They also need to embrace the fact that their inability to communicate fluently in English can also be altered. Thus, they should fear making mistakes. Mistakes can always be collected. Indeed this is the best learning approach to develop fluency in communicating in a foreign language.

Interview 2

Interviewer: Hello, sir. I understand you are the international program specialist at the university. What is your take on the capacity of the international students to develop relationships and friendships with the domestic students?

Interviewee: Thank you sir for engaging me in this debate. The ability of international students to form friendships with domestic students has been of great concern to the University over the last five years following rapid rise of the number of international students.

Interviewer: What are the most likely causes of the problem?

Interviewee: Exposure to an unfamiliar environment comes with nervousness. It is also impossible to establish friendships quickly if people are not able to express themselves fully. For international students, English is not their first language. Hence, incidences of communication barrier are a reality. Thus, international students will often tend to avoid embarrassments arising from poor communication with domestics students. Indeed, it is not a wonder to encounter a domestic student attempting to engage an international student in a debate only to be greeted by a nice, well composed smile.

Interviewer: Any solution to the problem?

Interviewee: Oh, yes. Last summer I visited Pittsburg University. Research done in the University revealed that more than 33% of the international students did not have close native friends. The answer to the problem was the creation of Pitt Pal program. Through the program, obstacles to the formation of friendships such as cultural differences, stereotyping language barriers and misconceptions can be addressed. I think such a program is of great help back here.

Interviewer: Thank you for your insights in this debate.

Works Cited

Asmar, Christine. “Internationalizing students: reassessing diasporic and local student difference.” Studies in Higher Education 30.3 (2005): 291-309. Print.

Crump, Johnston. “The new arrival minority: perceptions of their first-year tertiary programming learning environment.” Journal of Women & Minorities in Science & Engineering 10.1 (2005): 21-35. Print.