Monday, January 08, 2007

First Week Back

We got back to Norfolk last Wednesday, because I volunteered to help with International Student Orientation. If I had known that I would have to be back before classes started, I might not have signed up (yes, I am a bad person). But I came and I had a really good time. My group of six students included five from India and one from Turkey--no chance to practice my French or Spanish! They were really nice and happy to have another graduate student show them around campus. We picked up free bus passes and had pizza all together. A Russian student complimented my English before he realized I was American. On Saturday we went downtown and had a scavenger hunt, walking all around town and getting to know Norfolk. I really liked it because I got to discover places I had never seen either. We finished by eating Indian food, my favorite!

Hanging out with international students really made me think about my years in France and my study abroad in Spain. I had a tough time meeting Spanish people when I lived in Valencia. In fact, my closest Spanish friend was met in France! In the past I blamed this on "French girls" or "Spanish people," not really thinking about how few international friends I had in the US. All of the international students I've met here at ODU are excited about meeting American students, and it made me realize how hard it will be for them to do. It's not that Americans are closed to foreigners--but it's a lot easier to make friends with people who have the same conception of the college environment. Most of the international students I met hadn't chosen to live in student housing, which is where I met most of my closest friends from college (yes, including Jube).

It made me think about myself abroad. While I wanted to meet Spanish people and French people, I didn't change my behavior to do so and stayed with what was comfortable--speaking English, going home early, and other cultural issues that were normal for me and my fellow American students but did not facilitate meeting the "natives." I'm going to try really hard this semester to keep in touch with the students I've met the past week, and if I ever live in France again I will put more emphasis on myself to meet French people. Instead of blaming other things (schoolwork, language), I will hold myself responsible. I'm kind of excited about it!

1 comment:

Lady Iphigenia said...

Well, while in France, you did get the chance to meet a french hubby, didn't you!? ;)