My sister, who studied in the U.S. for a year, gave me a false picture of Americans. She said strangers come up and talk to you for no reason because they are nice and open-minded. So when I first came to Purdue, I expected random people to start conversations with me, and in that way become friends. That didn’t quite happen.
I think many of us international students want to make Americans friends, but we are not always sure how to do it. Waiting for them to take the first step is obviously not the right way, at least in my case. So I took the matter in my own hands and asked a few American Purdue students how to approach them.
All of them said they’d love for international students to approach them. Matthew Jordan from Los Angeles thinks the best way to initially get to know Americans is to have a casual conversation with them, and when things get more comfortable, you can do activities together.
“People need to focus on stepping outside of their comfort zones and going into a conversation with an open mind and a willingness to learn more about a person and their culture,” Matthew said.
Yohana Beraki from Indianapolis said she really likes talking to international students. She prefers that they take the first step because that shows her that they are interested in learning from others. She said she likes when people have the courage to just come up and talk to her, and that basically every American would be happy to have a conversation with an international student.
Gavin Fritz from Fort Wayne agrees with Yohana; it’s nice when international students approach them because it means that they have a wish to understand the American culture. He said he has classes with international students, so the best way to approach him is to talk to him after class.
Both Matthew and Yohana think Americans and international students have a mutual fear of approaching each other – a fear due to language barriers or cultural differences. Both sides want to interact, but both sides wait for the other to take the first step.
Personally, I think it’s less scary to approach other international students than Americans. I guess that’s because we’re in the same boat; we all know what it feels like to be away from our home country, and we sort of find comfort in each other.
But now, knowing that the Americans are as scared as we are, I will try to approach them more. That should go for the Americans, as well. We wouldn’t think you’re weird for coming up and talking to us – it would make our day.