We met in the first official English Club meeting. (English Club is the conversation club I started for international students this semester.) He was an older Turkish man who barely spoke English and who was here as a visiting scholar studying children's literature. I am a twenty-year old undergrad. I didn't really expect us to become friends.
But we did. By the end of this school year, we had talked about all sorts of things ranging from Persian poetry to atheism and ethnic conflict and education. So though I know Ahmet was very ready to go home and see his family, I will definitely miss him. I am very happy for the times I got to spend with him this year. I have been so blessed by the time I've spent with all of my international friends this year. I have learned so much about culture and international issues, plus I've had a ton of fun.
So I think that you all should get some international friends. And in case you don't think that a good idea, here's ten (somewhat facetious) reasons why international friends are awesome:
1. All of the international students I've met so far have been incredibly interesting people with fascinating stories of how they got here. And they're usually brilliant. Who doesn't want fascinating brilliant friends?
2. They have great food recommendations. And they can tell you if that sushi place you like is really legit, or give you advice on where to get the best hookah.
3. You get to show off your city. Are there any places in Tucson that you've been meaning to go to, but haven't had the chance yet? Here's your chance.
4. Stock up on places to stay on your next place overseas. This shouldn't be your main motivator for making international friends, but it's definitely a perk.
5. Expand your cultural horizons. A lot of people around the world don't do things the way that you do, and they often do things a bit differently for a good reason. So get challenged to think about why you do things the way you do and learn some new ways to do things in the process.
6. Can't afford to travel? Hanging out with people from different countries is almost as good as going to a different country.
7. Ever been overseas? Feeling nostalgic for your favorite travel spot? Talk about it with someone who might miss that spot as much as you do.
8. Improve YOUR English. English is a really weird and quirky language. And you will learn way more about this by hanging out with someone who has learned it as a second language.
9. Need a travel buddy? I bet you could find some international students who'd love to roadtrip it to California or the Grand Canyon or the nearest ski resort or any other cool place with you.
10. Honestly, this is an amazing chance for inter-cultural dialogue and friendship. People are afraid of what they don't know, and I'm pretty sure there'd be a little less conflict if people got to know people from different backgrounds and cultures personally and understand why they live the way they do. Personal friendships are incredibly powerful and rewarding, and international friendships are a fantastic way to learn about the world and expand your worldview. It can be a challenge, but it's well worth it.
And there are way more than ten reasons to have international friends. Honestly, many of these students who come here just really want to hang out with Americans, practice their English, and get to know more about us beyond just our taste in TV shows (which we export abroad). So why don't you give them that chance?
Go make some friends!
PS: If you are saying right now, "But I don't know how or where to meet international students...," just contact me. I can definitely set you up.