Tips on hosting international students

In my personal opinion, Asian students/citizens find it harder to stay in a foreign country (than the Westerners) particularly in Western countries because of several reasons (which vary from country to country). This means that the percentage of "culture shock" is greater. Firstly because of language barrier. Not all Asian countries consider English as their second language and if they speak or understand English, they might find it difficult to understand and catch up with conversations because Western people speak so fast. In hosting international students, the first important thing to consider, perhaps, is to know how good and comfortable these foreign students are with the English language and host countries or organizations can, from there, make adjustments.

Here are some of the more practical tips:

1. Consider the food they eat. Foreign students might find the food of host countries entirely different from the food they eat back home. Introducing them to Canadian diet perhaps would take a little time so this should be done in a more properly phased manner.

2. For Asian students, there is a big time difference, having passed several meridians (like Canada is 11 hours delayed compared to Philippine time. If it's morning here, it's nighttime in the Philippines). It is like entering into some form of time tunnel where they experience changes in sleeping and wake up schedules. It might be difficult for them, at the beginning, to catch up with schedules and giving them due consideration (and perhaps, patience) is of the essence.

3. It is also of importance to know (even a little bit) similarities and differences in culture ethics and practices. For example, hugging a Filipino for a welcome greeting might offend him/her because hugging and kissing, in the Philippines, are done only by people who know each other intimately. A mere hand shake is enough to convey the message.

4. Asian students in particular and foreign visitors, in general will be appreciative if they will be given background information on traits and attitudes of a typical Canadian citizen. By doing so, you are helping these students or visitors to know and determine the type and extent of adjustments to make.

5. Being sensitive to the needs and peculiarities of these students/visitors counts the most. There is no singular formula to do this but it will certainly help a lot. Being observant, on the one hand, and understandable, on the other, are the first steps.

6. Foreign students almost always feel uncomfortable starting conversation. Asking them questions on topics of interest to them might be of help to start the conversation going and establish the feeling of being "at home". Questions like: Tell me about your country and your family ?(they would be very glad to share these with other people since they value these very much) What is it like living in your hometown? What type of food do you like to eat? Do you want to see the nice spots in the community? Do you want me to take your picture? How do you find the weather? In group discussions Filipino students usually raise their hands if they want to butt in and say something and would not talk unless he/she is acknowledged by the group leader or facilitator.

There may be hundred of other tips but the most important thing is to do things naturally, try not too hard to please them and be yourself.

TG Magazine / The Students Commission
© 1997 le magazine TG / la Commission des étudiants