During my service as an International Student Ambassador, one question I have been asked many times is whether there are “too many” international students at IU. When I said “Cultural diversity is actually one of the greatest things about IU”, the follow up question would always be: “Well, would it be difficult to make friends outside of my culture?”
This is a great question. To answer this, let’s start by some facts. There are 6,416 international students at IU Bloomington, 2,990 are from China, 914 from India, 753 from Korea. If you are from these countries, does it mean that you’ll never be able to interact with students from other countries? Absolutely not. As a former cultural exchange student, the greatest thing I’ve learned during my exchange year is that the key to making friends from a different culture is to get out of your comfort zone. Yes, there are IU students who don’t make friends outside of their own culture, just like at any other school. However, if you choose to get out of our comfortable zone and embrace the amazing cultural diversity offered at IU, you will be just the opposite from that.
Here are 4 easy ways to get out of your comfort zone right at the beginning of your life at IU:
1. Get Involved
There are over 700 ways to get involved at IU. And honestly, joining a club or a Greek organization is the best way to make friends at a huge school like IU. It might be awkward to meet a bunch of strangers at that first club meeting. However, it is those “strangers” who become your best friends after you get to know each other more through social events and other activities. When school gets busy, getting involved is easier said than done. However, please, don’t ever use “I don’t have time” as an excuse”. Time is matter of priority. If you value meeting new friends and getting to know other cultures, come out and join a club!
2. Try New Things
Have you ever tried Burmese food? Have you ever gone to the art museum ? Lotus Festival? In such a vibrant town like Bloomington, there must be things you have never tried. Trying new things at IU, and in Bloomington, will give you plenty of opportunities to meet new people, and start conversations with old friends. It might be “safer” to stay with your favorite food, or always hang out at the same area on campus. But remember, magic happens outside your comfort zone!
3. Invite a Friend
Are you the kind of person who would like to go to things by yourself? If you are, it’s time to invite a friend! Inviting a friend to lunch, or ask them to try new things with you are some of the greatest ways to get to know people in a college setting. Are you debating because you don’t know the person very well? Doing something together is the first step to starting a long-lasting friendship. Have courage, and take initiative. You’ll find out that we Hoosiers are always happy to explore the town with you, and get to know you more!
4. Take a Difficult Class
Well, this is a bit of a non-traditional approach, and might not be suitable for everyone. But….some of my very best friends are made through hours of struggle(per week) through difficult classes. If you are one who like intellectual challenge and group work, taking a difficult class of your interest might have the positive result of a solid friendship. Worried about your GPA? Think about it like your comfort zone. Are you willing to take a risk at getting a B if the reward is tremendous learning, and a couple good friends(who might be from anywhere!)? I totally would!