Although Ohio State’s diversity is one of its greatest assets, it is one of the things that students individually do not capitalize enough on. Sure, it’s easy enough to acknowledge the fact that one of your classmates is from China, or the girl in your dorm is from Somalia, but do we actually know what it means?
International students make up nearly 6,200 students in the Columbus campus, according to Ohio State’s statistical summary, and yet their value and unique insight as foreign students rarely is valued in the way it should be. International students say they have trouble making American friends; domestic students say they have trouble relating to international students. The result is obvious in practice: in dining halls, you can see groups of international students sitting on their own, speaking their language while domestic students act as if they’re not there.
This is an issue on both sides of the table. After I went to Washington D.C with the office of International Affairs over fall break and spent five days living with a Chinese roommate, I learned that bridging the divide between international students is a task that has to be undertaken by both parties. My roommate felt that domestic students weren’t interested in what she had to say, and I felt that international students didn’t want to open up. Through that dialogue we had reduced the problem we thought to be complex and cross cultural into a simple phrase: effort.
As Chinua Achebe says: “The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify. Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity–that’s it’s this or maybe that–you have just one large statement: it is this.”
Be willing to expand your comfort zone. Talk to your international counterparts. Regardless of their birth country, they’re still in the same university with you, experiencing many of the same things. Your effort will be rewarded with some new insights that just might make your world a little bigger.
DC Trip Through OIA – Credit: Office of International Affairs
Three continents and over six countries are represented in our group!