Being an international student is fun and rewarding. You get to meet new people, learn about different cultures and share diverse perspectives.
But what if you speak a different language from your campus colleagues and you are slightly more introverted? In such a situation, developing friendships and making connections can be quite difficult.
When I came to China, I had little grasp of Mandarin, and I wasn’t very familiar with the culture. Coming from an inward culture, I felt a bit awkward about directly approaching university classmates.
With time, however, I developed better connections with both my international friends and my Chinese friends. Here are some of the tips I found useful to connect with people across linguistic and cultural barriers.
1. Library talks
Although the library might not be the best place for socialising, it is where I made one of my strongest connections. I had to reserve a spot for myself and was clueless how to do it. A fellow student helped me, and it turned out that he shared the same major as me. We later connected on WeChat, and our discussions expanded from exams and homework to everything else.
Libraries are one the best places where you can meet friends of shared academic interests. Shared interests bridge across cultural and linguistic barriers and help you develop great connections.
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2. University clubs
Planning and organising events and working together to solve issues are all things that occur when you join a club. Even with broken Mandarin, my interactions with fellow students in the clubs I joined helped to shape my connections. I made new friends and even began to understand some cultural nuances.
Be it a sports club or a communication club, your club members are one the best connections you can develop. Such relationships can help you across your personal and professional journey.
Diversity might seem overwhelming, but it becomes fun once you get together to solve problems or make exciting things happen!
3. Cultural celebrations
Cultural celebrations and social events such as new year festivities are occasions when it’s easy to break the ice, meet people and develop new connections. In warm, festive environments where greetings are shared, not only is it easy and fun to connect to new friends, but it is also a great opportunity to learn about your hosts’ culture.
Whether it’s taking part in traditional celebrations or making some new dishes together, participating in such activities helps to break down cultural barriers and establish stronger connections. It becomes easier to connect across cultural barriers once you try to actively immerse yourself in the environment.
Developing friendships and connections might be bit different when there are cultural and linguistic differences. However, it is an extremely rewarding experience and a fun process of life as an international student.