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ESL and American Students: What’s the Friendship Like?

esl and american students are friendsMost American students like having international students on campus and would even like to see more of them. But why are they not building friendship? Most American students have only a few international friends or less and an even lower percentage of international students claim to have a few American friends. To build these friendships it is important to understand the cause of the disengagement and how to engage in building new friendships between ESL and American students.



Cultural and course choice can play a role in the disengagement of American and international students. Some students claim not to make efforts to get to know one another because they are not in the same class or organizations. Culture likely plays a role in what organizations students choose to belong to.

Another reason for the disengagement is clearly comfort levels. Some students are not comfortable trying to interact with students from other cultures and few struggles through stepping out of their comfort zones to these valuable new friendships. Communication or lack thereof may be why interacting with those of other ethnicities and cultures can be so uncomfortable for both groups.


Who’s To Blame?

It may not come as surprise to anyone but both groups place the blame on the other for the disengagement and lack of friendships. International students often have a perspective that American student groups are hard to break into and that Americans are uninterested in getting to know them. Likewise American students tend to feel that international students flock together and stay to themselves rather than mingling with the American students.

It is difficult to say who the true blame for the lack of friendships falls on. Most American students believe it does not take extra effort to become friends with international students while an extremely low percentage of American students concur with this belief. Due to America being such a melting pot most American students claim to become friends with whomever they encounter during the day and do not see differences in others.



The key to closing the disengagement gaps could be changing perspectives of both American and international students. International students typically do feel American students are friendly yet unwilling to get to know them. Few American students’ judge international students on their looks, scents, and culture and most simply see them as unique individuals. Both groups may find the other interesting but be taken back by the lack of communication not wanting to offend the other.


Close That Gap

There are steps both international and American students can take to bridge the disengagement gap and build friendships, which basically include involvement in groups that offer a diverse group of interactions. Find a common activity or organization that offers a diverse balance of students an opportunity to get to know one another. This may need to be intentional if you look around yourself and find your friends are not a diverse group. Seek out multicultural events, organizations, and teams. Take some time to reach out to someone who may be a bit different than you and get to know them. The friendships that will be built will be well worth the effort.

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