By fate or by happy accident, a few months ago I met an exchange student from Singapore during an open house event at the I-House, a residence hall on campus that brings people from the U.S. and countries around the world together. A couple of minutes exchanging greetings casually turned into a few hours of conversation, and an amazing friendship has blossomed between us since then.
Making friends with international students on campus can be as easy as showing up to one of the Language Institute’s Coffee Hours, signing up to spend time with a foreign language conversation partner there or showing up to an event for any of the numerous multicultural clubs active at Tech.
The benefits of these friendships are absolutely twofold, as you get to learn from each other and build lasting relationships that cross seas and borders. My friend and I went on a cruise for spring break, explored the Georgia Aquarium on GT Night and are planning to spend as much time together as possible before she leaves for home in a month. All of the adventures that we’ve enjoyed together, big and small, are memories that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
After attending several of the Language Institute’s weekly meet-and-greets, I can honestly say that from my personal perspective, there’s nothing more exciting than making friends with people from other countries. Exploring another person’s culture can only be described as an awesome experience.
For one thing, it opens the door to trying new foods, which everyone can appreciate. My friend recently introduced me to frog legs, which after a lot of encouragement and support I finally mustered up the nerve to sample. To my surprise, I discovered that they are much more delicious than look. I have never been so happy to leave my own comfort zone, and that was something I never would have dreamed of doing if it wasn’t for her.
To return the favor, I introduced her to Sublime Doughnuts, which wasn’t nearly as adventurous as trying frog legs but pretty fantastic all the same.
I’m a firm believer that college life is about more than preparing for the future through your studies. As I see prospective students touring our campus and deciding whether Tech is right for them, I know that they’re not just looking at our impressive academic programs and facilities, but also at the way current students interact with each other in our organizations and the friendships we’re making here. Our campus culture is wonderfully diverse.
In addition to sharing new experiences, I’ve found that one of the best things about international friendships is discovering our similarities. My friend and I delighted in our shared love of anime at Tech’s annual MomoCon convention last month, and that opportunity to be crazy, obsessive fangirls together made us even closer. We’re finding that we have more things in common every day.
I know people who have invited exchange students to live with them for a short time, which is a great opportunity to meet people of other cultures and show them what typical American life is like. However, I don’t think anything can compare to the chance we have at Tech now to really connect with different people in our daily lives, realize our mutual interests and just hang out—by far the easiest and the best way to get those invaluable cultural experiences that we can take with us.
It’s no secret that Tech offers a lot of opportunities to make memorable international connections. As an International Affairs major myself, learning about global societies is a big part of what I do. Still, there are some things about the world that you just can’t learn from a textbook, and there are ways to fill that gap that are much more enriching.
After having the unforgettable experience of studying abroad in Cuzco, Peru last summer, I can truly say that I’ve gained a new appreciation for meeting people from different countries. No matter what you happen to be majoring in or where your interests are, in today’s world it’s likely that you will be interacting with people from other cultures socially or professionally.
It isn’t possible for everyone to study abroad, but luckily, Tech boasts a thriving international community right here—waiting for us to take advantage of it.