Understanding Cultural Diversity for International Students
written by: RobinRaven•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 9/28/2010
Cultural diversity is something that almost all college students experience. Rather from a small town or big city, college simply exposes students to cultures and concepts they have never known. Understanding cultural diversity for international students is key.
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Steps to Understanding Cultural Diversity
An international student is studying many things, not simply what goes on in the classroom. One of the things that all international students must understand is cultural diversity. He must understand the differences between not only his native country and his host country, but also the culture of other students on campus as well. After all, an international student is probably studying at a college that welcomes students from many countries and cultures. Act respectfully and ask questions when in doubt, when faced with someone's whose culture you are unfamiliar with. However, the primary focus on understanding cultural differences is between your own country and your host country. Understanding cultural diversity for international students will really help.
Crack books on your host country's culture long before you set foot on campus. Trying to cram while also trying to keep up with your studies is a recipe for disaster. You will never be able to master all aspects of your host country's culture; none of the native college students have done that, so don't worry. Learn the major things a student may need to know, such as clothing that may be considered offensive, how to accept gifts and compliments, what to tip in restaurants, trends for young people, and ways in which you show respect to your elders, such as college professors and campus staff members.
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Expanding Your Perceptions of Cultural Diversity
The main way that you will truly experience the cultural diversity is through immersion. While a college student who has long lived in a town will not need to take in the sites, an international student should go where the locals go. While a college student just coming to a major city may want to spend his time taking in the typical tourist attractions, save that for later. The initial time you spend should be in places that ordinary people in the town go, not places with travelers and tourists. Spend lots of time browsing in a store to people watch; this will help you understand small customs, like casual dress and conversation methods.
How you dress may be a big cultural difference. What you do not realize is that someone may be very offended by something that seems entirely harmless to you. There are many cultures around the world, and thinking only of your own will not lead to success as an international student. When in doubt, opt for modesty.
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Continued Work on Cultural Diversity
As you progress in your studies, you will also improve on your understanding of the cultural diversities between your host country and your native one. As you change and learn, be quick to genuinely apologize if you make a mistake. Most people on a college campus are aware that mistakes will happen. It is the perfect learning environment, as the real world would not be as forgiving. As you learn, be sure that there is a friend or professor nearby that is open to answering your questions on cultural diversity; this will help the transition and understanding an easy trek. Before long, you will be understanding cultural diversity for international students.