Creating International Friendships
Meeting new people can be a bit nerve-wracking. You never quite know what to expect, and I think that’s especially true when it comes to meeting people from other countries. The language barrier can be daunting, and it may be a bit uncomfortable as you try to establish mutual interests.
However, as I’ve discovered in the past two semesters, international friendships can be some of the most rewarding.
Last semester, I met two South Korean international students while doing community service. Somehow, we got stuck raking grass off sand at a playground on a very hot day. The actual work was pretty miserable, but we made the best of it, getting to know each other and making jokes along the way.
Fast forward a few months and those two girls became like older sisters to me. We had a typical friendship connection, but what made the relationship special was that we were also able to share our cultures with one another. They took an interest in American culture and they cultivated my existing interest in Korean culture.
We’d meet for lunch and spend hours discussing anything and everything. Sometimes we’d talk about similarities and differences between our home countries and once they even cooked tteokbokki (spicy rice cake) for me.
Along with the growth of our friendship, we were always learning from each other. They truly helped to encourage my interest in other countries and inspired my decision to join the Culture Exchange program at Angelo State University this semester.
Through the program, I was partnered up with another girl from South Korea. It was a bit difficult at first for us to find things to talk about. There were occasional pauses in the conversation and a few instances of miscommunication but talking became much easier as we got to know each other.
The night that we were partnered up, we traveled with several other students and their international buddies to a local Asian restaurant to get to know each other. Not long after we were seated, the apprehension began to fade on both sides and pretty soon everyone was laughing along with each other. My buddy and I found out that we shared interests in things like dance, theater and dramas. It’s really cool to see how simply establishing common interests can break down barriers and set people at ease. From then on, communication became much easier.
My buddy and I continue to share our cultures with one another and I still keep in contact with my international friends from last semester. Building these friendships may take a little more patience and effort, but once they are established you will have a relationship in which you are constantly learning and broadening your perspectives.
Through these friendships, the world is brought to you without your even having to set foot off campus.