Tuesday, September 11, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
Foreign Students: Making Friends Not Always Easy
A recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education said many foreign students report feeling lonely or unwelcome in Australia. Those feelings are one of the reasons why Australia is taking a close look at its international education industry. The government has formed an advisory council to help develop a five-year national strategy for the future of international education in the country. But wherever international students go, making friends may not always be easy.
The Journal of International and Intercultural Communication published a study done in the United States. Elisabeth Gareis of Baruch College in New York surveyed 454 international students. They were attending four-year colleges and graduate schools in the American South and Northeast.
Students from English-speaking countries and from northern and central Europe were more likely to be happy with their friendships. But 38 percent of the international students said they had no close friends in the United States. And half of the students from East Asia said they were unhappy with the number of American friends they had.
Professor Gareis says 30 percent said they wished their friendships could be deeper and more meaningful. Elisabeth Gareis says many East Asian students blamed themselves for their limited friendships with Americans and for not knowing the culture well enough.
VOA's Jessica Stahl did her own survey to find out how American students and foreign students relate to each other through her blog, The Student Union. More than 100 students, about half of them American, answered her online questions. Half of the international students and 60 percent of the Americans said they related as well or better to the other group than to their own group. 85 percent of the Americans said they have at least one international friend. But only about half said they have more than two international friends.
Among the foreign students, 75 percent said they have more than two American friends. But 10 percent said they have no American friends. Not surprisingly, Professor Gareis says students who make friends from their host country return home happier with their experience. She says the students are more satisfied with their stay, have better language skills and have better attitudes toward their host country.
For VOA Special English, I'm Mario Ritter. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 16Aug2012)