Connect with domestic students


The Daily Illini File Photo

Students get ready for the honors section of CS 196: Intro to Computer Science for CS Majors. Copy chief Alex writes that international students should take the time to connect with domestic students during lectures and classes.

By Alex Greulich, Copy Chief

Studying in a new country is unimaginably difficult to some. To others, it’s exciting. To the rest, there’s such a mix of emotions that is sometimes hard to make sense of everything. Concerns of not finding friends, missing family, not enjoying the food and not speaking the language are some of the hardest considerations to face before leaving. More than likely, however, international students from everywhere will get on a plane in their home countries to pursue an education and an incomparable experience in another country.

As an international student coming to America, you will have the opportunity to land and make the absolute most of your journey here at the University. Everything is going to be different: curriculum, food and interactions with students who have lived here their entire lives.

This is your make or break moment. Most likely, students from your country will also come to Illinois to study here. They’ll speak English, as well as the language you may speak at home. They will miss their families probably just as much as you will. You’ll have a shared experience in your journey, your home country and the culture you leave behind for a while.

It will be natural to want to make friends with those who share these experiences, but it might also narrow your chances at really immersing yourself in your new experience here at Illinois. Some of the best moments are finding a new connection with someone who has lived an entirely different life than the one you have lived. You’ll also feel more at home at the University than you might without any domestic friends.

If you are worried about how to approach someone, try engaging with the person sitting next to you in class. It’s normal and friendly, especially at the beginning of the year, to introduce yourself and get to know your classmates. Professors at the University also highly appreciate participation and communication, so having a friend in class may help make you feel more comfortable. It can also be beneficial if you are confused about assignments or how any part of the curriculum works during the school year.

On top of making friends with domestic students in class, getting to know students outside of class can be really rewarding. They will have a chance to show you around campus and introduce you to a part of campus culture you may not be exposed to otherwise. Whether every experience is enjoyable or not, you’ve taken another step outside of your comfort zone and have made memories to keep with you long after you return home.

If you’re concerned about making the first move toward engaging with domestic students, invite them to coffee or bubble tea on campus. There are a number of cafes on Green Street, the main street for food and restaurants on campus, and there are many places that are great for socializing.

If you’re interested in meeting domestic students to practice your language skills, there are also many resources on campus to choose from. These meetings and hangouts can be great ways to learn and also make friends at the same time.

After taking these first steps, you may even find yourself a travel buddy to go with you to Chicago or other places and explore more outside the University.

Whether you’re coming from the other side of the world, or from only a few hours away by flight, you have the opportunity to make the most of your experience at Illinois. Remember to take initiative, engage in conversations and be open to the differences you’ll inevitably experience. It is OK and comforting to have friends from home on campus and you should maintain those friendships, but also encourage them to reach out and really delve into the community here, because it’s a welcoming, exciting place to live in and you’re now a part of it.

Alex is a senior in LAS. 

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