Advice from an international student for faculty and staff

Wrote this piece a while ago for an “International Perspectives: Cross-Cultural Dialogue” series event.

Show interest in your student’s country of origin: Ask about their country’s heritage and what it’s like living there. Showing even the slightest interest goes a long way. Every time someone would ask me about Bulgaria  (1) it takes me back virtually to my homeland; (2) it makes me smile that someone is interested to learn about my home country; and (3) it turns to be the highlight of my day. You can ask just a simple question such as: Tell me more about Bulgaria and the town where you grow up in.

Try to understand the student’s desire to study abroad:  Why did they choose this specific school? Why did they decide to study in the United States?

Consider inviting them for the holidays: I have been fortunate to have spent Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas with U.S. families (thanks, Michelle  Carrara, Ellen Lincourt). This helped me feel home away from home in moments when I felt home-sick and lonely. It provided me a loving heart when I needed it most.

Encourage shy international students to participate in class:  Part of my culture shock experience was the amount of in-classroom activities. As an international student, I was not used to speaking up and  quietly stood on my desk. I didn’t want to speak mostly because of my accent, but I also thought I didn’t have anything meaningful to say.

I spoke with a professor of mine who encouraged me to raise my hand when I wanted to add something to the discussion, whether it was valuable or not. She listened to me, which helped me open up, get out of my comfort zone, and  make my voice heard instead of keeping it all to myself (thanks, Sharon Wulf, Ph.D.)

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