“I’m not racist, but…” “Oh wait, you probably don’t know what that means.” “Are you poor?” “Teach me the curse words in your language!” “Are you rich?” “But you don’t look like a…” “Oh I know a word in your language!” “Are you really good at math?” “I hate how the people in your country are always so…” In addition to bad accents and obvious stares, this can be a typical day in the life of a foreign exchange student. Now put yourself in their position. Wouldn’t you be frustrated, too?
AFS Intercultural Programs is an organization that brings foreign exchange students from over 40 countries to the U.S. to study abroad and learn more about our culture. Many students attend West Albany through this program, from countries like Japan, Pakistan, Spain, and South Korea. Their passion for learning our culture helps us all make progress towards a better understanding of our world.
Foreign exchange students develop their views on our country based on our words, actions, and attitude. We are the example of America they will bring back to their home country. When they tell friends and family about their experience, they will talk about us; how we speak, what we eat, how we study, and what we do. This is why it is so important to treat these students with patience and kindness. Not only is it common courtesy, but it improves the country’s overall reputation.
“Before I came to the US I had many stereotypes,” junior Jawwad Ali said.
Foreign exchange students also help us develop our school’s community. When they study abroad here, we also benefit and learn. Their presence brings a kind of diversity to our school that many of us have no experience with because of West Albany’s mass of white students. Seeing variation in color and in culture helps us discover how similar we all are despite distance. West Albany is full of white students, so it’s nice to see some variation in color. Our global views are widened by these encounters. There’s no better way to learn about a foreign place than to have a citizen teach you. We should always be open to the understanding of the world around us. Limiting ourselves to one town, state, or country means limiting our overall knowledge.
Students from different cultures need our support. Often, they are treated badly because of their differences. Instead, we should encourage these differences. Just as they are enthusiastic to learn about the U.S., we should show the same eagerness to learn from them. Crossing an ocean to leave your world behind is immensely brave. These students deserve our hospitality.
Ask good questions. Be polite and patient. Learn their names. Make friends. Let’s show some love for our friends from abroad and pass peace forward.
Catch AFS on their social media pages below.
Snapchat: @afs-usa Instagram: @afs_usa Twitter: @AFSUSA YouTube: AFS-USA