When I ask our international students what is the hardest part of living in America, the answer is always “making friends.” It’s not that the students their age are unkind, because the international students all remark on how friendly and helpful other LCS students are. But moving from friendly to friendship is difficult for students who are learning a new language and culture far from the support of home. One of our Chinese students, Claire Zhang, comes from Guangzhou, a very large city in southern China. The weather in Guangzhou is similar to Florida, but the way of life is very different. Claire has almost finished her first year at LCS, and is looking forward to seeing her family and friends back home in a few weeks after school ends. She says that it can be hard to know what to talk about with American students or how to join a group of students who are already friends.
One person who has helped Claire make this transition is her peer friend, Olivia Overholt. Olivia was asked to be Claire’s peer friend at the beginning of the school year, and their friendship has developed from there. I sat down with Claire and Olivia, as well as two other sophomores, Rachel Swygert and Kristen Beacham, to talk about cross-cultural friendship.
How did you meet?
Claire: Olivia was my peer friend
Kristen: And we’re friends with Olivia.
Rachel: We don’t have many classes together, but we sit together at lunch.
What are some things you have in common?
Olivia: Playing games like Blokus, painting at my house, watching superhero movies.
What are some differences between school in China and LCS?
Claire: My school was much bigger and had many more students. My school was a boarding school, so I lived on campus instead of with a host family. We eat many different foods as well.
Is it difficult to make friends with someone from another culture?
Claire: I think it is hard because the students already have groups of friends from the past. They already know each other and have a background together.
Olivia: Any friendship is complicated, but sometimes this is hard because we don’t understand each other.
So what can LCS students do to bridge the cultural gap? Here are some ideas for cross-cultural friendships:
- Ask questions; find out about the other student’s culture and home.
- Invite students to do something that doesn’t require a lot of talking. Watching movies or playing basketball together can be a great way to spend time together.
- Try cooking together. You will learn something about their culture and get to eat new foods at the same time!
- Invite them to attend a school activity with you. Football games, the school musical, and other activities help international students meet other students and learn about American culture.
Are you interested in how you can meet students from other cultures? Contact Kala Walls, International Student Coordinator. We have several new international high school students who will join the student body next year. A fellow student or even a school family can play an important role in helping these students feel a part of our LCS community!
Miss Kala Walls serves LCS as a 6th grade Social Studies teacher, and as the International Student Program Coordinator. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.