International students struggle to embrace American culture

By: Andi Breitowich

A tough issue international students face is engaging in American culture, specifically in high school. Assimilating students, who do not speak English and have large cultural differences, is a challenging task to overcome. Students from similar backgrounds often stay together and choose to not fully commit to the American life of a “high schooler”. It is important to include these students into the community so they experience high school to its fullest. The students should be comfortable and willing to take advantage of the opportunities provided, and contribute to their class and community.

It is a daunting task to live in a new country with a new language, and major cultural differences. For many international students it is not easy to interact with American students, get involved in student life, or participate in class discussions. According to a Chinese boarding student from La Lumiere School, Peter Shentu, “Participating in the community, with below average English skills is a struggle.” A challenging task for the administration, teachers, and student leaders is creating a curriculum and activities that will intrigue and excite these international students. A way to form new ideas and have fresh activities for the international students is to have the international students meet with faculty and discuss activities that they find interesting. By encouraging them to meet weekly and discuss campus life, new ideas will be introduced to the community. Food options from their home country or activities could be introduced to their American classmates. By allowing them to do this, they can teach the domestic students and this might motivate them to participate. By making the campus life more global, this should encourage their involvement. The international students have creative ideas and can contribute to the community.

Most international students do not initiate contact with the domestic students. It is more comfortable to interact with others from their native country rather than their American classmates. For both student groups, the language is the barrier. We must increase the language learning to encourage interactivity. With the popularity increase of foreign students attending high school in the states, the downside is it becomes too easy for the different students to befriend fellow countrymen. Though they find comfort in this, this limits the immersion into English. In boarding schools, such as my own, by having the students` be roommates with American classmates, and grouped with Americans for classes will increase language proficiency. This will help English speaking students to reach out and international students to feel more comfortable.

The international population finds a value to offering students high school in America. These students come with the hope of engaging and learning the American culture. What we need to remember is that the life stories of these students are interesting, profound, and deserve sharing. According to Kevin Slaten`s article, published by The Diplomat, “We need to allow these students to share their stories and educate their peers. We need to get to know people, listen, and expand the circle of ideas and create an environment where ideas can connect and everyone feels valued.”