By on May 12th, 2017

How to Learn About Your International Student’s Culture

It should go without saying that hosting an international student is going to give you an unrivaled education in a foreign culture. While that’s definitely something to look forward to, take measures so that you’ll have a much easier time asking your student questions.

Read Up on What Other Students from Their Countries Have Had to Say

Long before your international student comes to stay with you, you can begin preparing by doing some Internet searches for what other students from their country have had to say about staying in America.

Now, as we’ll cover a bit more in a moment, you have to remember that every student is their own person. The way that one student viewed America isn’t necessarily going to be the way others will.

Nonetheless, this kind of research should give you some pretty helpful insights and an idea into what you can expect from your student.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Another thing you can do is to simply read up on their country’s customs and culture. You don’t want to be completely ignorant of these things when your student arrives. They may be insulted, but they may also wonder how you could know so little about something so important to them.

That being said, don’t make assumptions. It’s all too easy for us Americans to do that, despite the fact that we hate when others do it to us. Our country is extremely diverse in terms of religion, politics, race, sexual orientation, and more.

While the home country of your guest may not be quite as diverse, it probably isn’t completely homogenous either.

Therefore, when you ask questions to learn about their culture, don’t make assumptions.

For example: “You must like soccer, right?”

Maybe they do, but maybe they don’t. That’s far from an offensive question, but it would be far better to say something like, “What kinds of sports do you like?” If they say soccer, your research will give you plenty to talk about, which will also show your student that you looked into the subject beforehand, which they’ll appreciate.

Don’t Overwhelm Them with Questions

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn about your international student’s culture. That’s one of the best parts about the entire experience. As we mentioned earlier, your student will most likely be flattered you’re so curious.

At the same time, don’t overwhelm them too much, especially at first. Let your questions come naturally over the course of a conversation. Don’t get so excited that you just sit them down and let your questions out rapid-fire.

Treat Them Like an Individual

As we’ve already touched on, you need to be careful not to stereotype your student. They aren’t a carbon copy of everyone else from their country. The sooner you let them express their unique characteristics, the sooner they will be comfortable around you and a real connection can begin.

Again, don’t grill them. To some degree, this always takes time and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Instead, just spend time with them. Anything from sharing meals to running errands can provide ample opportunity to learn about your student’s culture.

Once you have a connection established and they better understand your intentions, they’ll also be a lot more open to direct questions about their country and culture.

Hosting an international student will teach you things about a foreign culture you could never hope to learn any other way. It’s only natural that you’d want to begin learning from your student right away, too. However, we recommend taking a slightly more casual approach. Follow the advice above and you’ll gain a brand new perspective while keeping your student comfortable at the same time.