My original intent in pursuing a graduate program in student affairs was the hope of one day working in Education Abroad or with international students. It wasn’t until this summer that I really had the opportunity to delve into this area of student affairs, and I can honestly say after my experience at Clemson I am so anxious to work in this capacity one day.
Everything about the study abroad office excited me. It is dynamic, collaborative, serves an incredibly diverse population of students (both domestic and international), and enabled me to utilize a variety of skills, some of which I hadn’t anticipated using.
I particularly found value in the work I was doing for the upcoming international exchange students’ orientation and living experience. Understanding more about this underrepresented population of students and configuring ways to increase interaction between American and international students was incredibly eye-opening. So often the solution to internationalizing a campus is to simply have international students be present in a study body. However, if we are to truly internationalize, American students need stronger interaction with them. Clemson’s Cultural Exchange Community, which is a living-learning community on campus, is one of the better practices I have seen in terms of encouraging interaction between these two student groups. However, one of the problems it often faces is finding American students who truly want to embrace this living environment. So what is the solution? How do we bring these students together? I think for starters, institutions with these type of living learning communities should work to recruit more American students who have studied abroad- these are the students who will have a better understanding of the international experience. Further, while I believe it is important for different cultural activities to be experienced in this type of community, I also think that initially, activities should work to be more cross-cultural in order to help students find common ground. Finally, it might be beneficial to have more intentional discussions that allow students the chance to better understand cultural differences and explore ways to better communicate with one another.
Anyway, I know this is really scattered, but it is just something I have been thinking about lately.
Does anyone else have thoughts on how to increase interaction between American and international students on campus?