About one year ago, I walked into Creighton University as an exchange student, scared out of my mind. This was the first time I was living on my own. The first big adventure of my life.
Some might say that when you go off to study away from home, the biggest fear might be about how to manage basic adult responsibilities: looking after yourself, cooking, managing finances and maintaining a good mental balance while keeping up with school work.
However, my biggest fear was more emotional in nature. What if I didn’t end up making any valuable social connections?
What if I spent my study abroad year, holed up in my room, watching Netflix, while everyone around me had the time of their life?
It turned out all these fears were unjustified. Not only did I end up finding the people I would call my best friends, I would also end up being so happy that I’d transfer and stay at Creighton as a full-time student!
The biggest reason for my smooth transition into college life and an active social life was Creighton’s very own International Student Association.
ISA’s responsibility is to help promote global friendships, particularly between international and domestic students.
All international, exchange and transfer students are actively engaged in not just the orientation events, but various other cultural activities throughout the semester.
My own experience being part of the ISA and now, as the vice president of public relations and social affairs has made me realize that colleges actively need to engage their students in international student associations.
This will not only help the international students adjust easier to a new culture and pick up American customs, but it will also help domestic students broaden their own horizons and become more open minded by cultivating friendships with people within a different culture.
According to migrationpolicy.org, US universities continue to host the largest number of international students.
Therefore, international student associations can play a big part in enhancing the experience of these students and making them feel welcome in a foreign culture.
A large part of a college experience is seeking out connections, connections you hope will last long after graduation.
International student associations can help in actively encouraging and fostering such connections by recognizing and celebrating the shared sense of humanity within all of us.