International students are eager to get to know you and your family, typical Americans. They want to be included in your routine. Welcome them into your home as it is. Let them see your normal, day-to-day life. This is the relaxed hospitality they long for. Genuine hospitality says, "Join us today. Relax, watch television, play with the children, wash your clothes, bring a friend, take a nap, or whatever you would like. We offer you friendship. Come and be with us, just as we are." This is hospitality, not entertainment. Entertainment says, "Before I can invite an international student into my home, I just have it neat and clean with everything in order." Hospitality says, "Come into my home and be with us just as we are. Let me put another plate on the table." This is the comfortable "homey" place every international student longs to find while here in the United States. The great tragedy is that very, very few ever get to experience it. (In fact, most international students return home without ever seeing the inside of an American home-or church.)
Friendship means moving beyond a superficial knowing to a deeper experience of being understood. Ask your friends about themselves and listen carefully to their responses. Focus on drawing them out. Ask specifics-who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Ask about their families, friends, favorite activities, holidays, foods, religion, and customs. Respond with statements of interest and acceptance, which begin to build trust. Say, for example, "That sounds very interesting; tell me more about it." Avoid controversial political discussions and projecting an attitude that "America is best."
Take the time to read and discover what is taking place in your international friend's home country. Ask informed questions, such as, "I've read about serious environmental problems in your country. Does that directly affect you and your family?" Don't, of course, assume that you know all about a country without some added time spent learning.
Real friendship accepts the other person as he or she is. True acceptance says, "I respect who you are. God made you in His image and I will value your thoughts and opinions. I will not try to force you to accept my way of thinking, or base my friendship on how much you agree with me." Only in a sincere atmosphere of acceptance will the international student risk exploring Christianity and its personal message. He or she needs to see a demonstration of unconditional love as you reach out with Jesus' love.
Abridged from Becoming a Friend With an International Student, by Meri MacLeod, (a training publication of International Students, Inc.) For ordering information, see Review below.Review
Becoming a Friend With an International Student
by Meri MacLeod
Revised and updated several times, this booklet has become a classic resource for ISI Friendship Partners. After a quick overview of the importance of outreach to the international students who come to your local campus each fall, this booklet provides not only a motivational boost to Americans who are making friends with internationals but also experience-tested, practical advice for how to make every meeting count. A few paragraphs of Becoming a Friend With an International Student have been excerpted above (see "An Adventure's First Steps").
This 30-page booklet may be ordered from the ISI website :
Hard copy $3.80 + shipping & handling
PDF download $1.90