The University of Nebraska at Kearney has approximately 7,000 students under its wing. Most of us come from Nebraska as well as 49 out of the 50 states. But UNK is also home to students who had to travel a bit further to attend. International students from over 40 different countries have chosen to say good bye to their families for a semester or up to four years in order study in the middle of the U.S.
When they first arrive everything is, well, foreign. For those students who have visited places like New York or San Francisco, they still must adjust to culture shock and frankly seeing a lot of corn everywhere. Most of them don’t even know the people they came over with. Though their English is sometimes pretty rough, they are eager to learn and become friends with the American students.
But unfortunately, many of them aren’t given a good welcome. Some are harassed, many made fun of, and excluded from activities and interactions with UNK students. This is unacceptable. The actions of some American students on campus contradict the stereotype that Nebraskans are nice and welcoming people.
In truth, it can be very awkward when getting to know someone who not only doesn’t speak English as a first language but comes from a country where everything from customs to pop culture are worlds apart. But it gives us a unique opportunity to not only make new friends, but to have our eyes open wider than the Nebraska landscape.
It’s sometimes uncomfortable meeting new people, especially when you have no idea what you might have in common. However, there are ways to get to know international students without feeling awkward. One of these ways is through Conversation Tables. This event lets students meet and talk to the international students we have on campus for an hour in the union.
Another way is through class. Become partners with an international student for a project or activity. You never know what could happen. What is known is that taking the step to get to know the international students on campus will not only help them learn American customs, but give you the opportunity to learn firsthand about places you’ve never been.
UNK also plays host to several festivals honoring the tradition and food of many of the countries represented here. The Korean, Japanese, Chinese and African culture festivals allow us to see a glimpse of the lives of UNK’s international students. The largest festival, the Scott D. Morris International Food and Culture Festival will take place on Sunday, March 10. With food from more than 10 different countries as well as entertainment, there are a multitude of opportunities to get to know the international students on campus.
If you visited another country would you want to be met with open arms or scathing remarks? Whether a student is from the Netherlands, West Africa or South Korea, they deal with many of the same struggles as American students. Money, relationships, classes, homework, the want of acceptance. All of these issues are common ground between students. International and homegrown alike.