Imagine this: you leave your family, your friends, your home, your country, the food you love and the very culture that raised you to get on a plane and fly across the world to a new country.
When you arrive in this new country no one from that country befriends you, invites your over to their house, or shares a meal with you. Isn’t this a sad idea?
Unfortunately, this is true for some of the 1,639 international students right here in Auburn, Alabama.
These students are lonely; they desire friends and help with English all while learning about American culture.
The problem is American students are not taking the time to acknowledge the existence of international students, much less befriend them.
International students may not always be culturally aware of what is right or wrong for us, but it is important to realize their actions are not wrong, just different.
The number of international students has drastically increased since Auburn Global was first created.
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Unfortunately, this means the problem of international students not being noticed is increasing.
The National Communication Association states that 78 percent of East Asian students have friendship problems because of an internal factor, such as language proficiency or shyness.
For example, East Asian students may fear reaching out to Americans because they are afraid their English is not proficient.
Additional statistics show that 40 percent of international students have had no close American friends and desire more meaningful interaction with people from America.
Research studies continue to confirm the growing disparity of international students looking for inclusion in American culture.
We have endless opportunities to impact international students both in the present and future by simply reaching out to them.
Surprisingly, statistics suggest that 75 percent of foreign students never set foot inside an American home while in the United States.
In other countries hospitality is highly valued, however, we slack in welcoming foreign students into our own homes.
As an Auburn Global Guide, I developed friendships with students from different countries including: Thailand, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, India and many more. I have developed a close friendship with one from Saudi Arabia.
One Saturday I had her over to my house and she told me that it was her first time in an American’s home.
She could not stop saying thank you and how much it made her day.
My friend also shared with me about an experience. She had worn her hijab one day to orientation and the next day she did not have it on. I asked her why?
She told me that people downtown had starred at her, so her father allowed her take it off the following day.
On the next day she decided not to wear it, she asked a girl for directions to get to campus and a girl offered a ride.
My friend said this would not have been the case if she had her hijab on.
My friend had to take away part of her religion and culture because she felt like she stood out too much and was embarrassed.
She truly wants to be accepted, loved and invited by Americans and more importantly the Auburn Family.
However, this problem of mono-culturalism has viable solutions.
At Auburn University we have the International Buddy Program (IBP) where American students are paired with international students to become friends and go to events together.
It is very easy to get connected by messaging IBP on their Facebook page or on AU Involve.
I have made many friendships through this program and I have heard many stories about the development of friendships through this organization.
There are many international events to attend. Learn about cultures and make friends.
A few organizations are the International Student Organization, Muslim Student Association, and the Indian Student Association.
On Fridays there is an event called International Social Hour where a specific country is the focus.
Members from this country come to eat traditional food and share about their culture.
I challenge you to get involved with people of different cultures around you.
I also challenge you to attend an international event to broaden your perspective.
Be interested in the people around you.
Amanda Howard is a junior majoring in social work.
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