During my life as an undergrad I used to volunteer picking new international students up from the airport and giving them temporary shelter until they get all setup. It was a great learning experience and I get to meet a lot of people from different parts of the world. Usually I get assigned to pick up students from Pakistan or other parts of South Asia but occasionally I would pick up someone from South America or Africa. Most Europeans were often athletes and already had a group of people there to pamper them. Anyway, I made some good friends who till this day remember me or my old car.
One thing that always fascinated me was to see how students would change over time. Their attitude towards family, money, studies, religion, and country all changed. Just like there are different stages of grief, you can probably differentiate the different stages of international students.
Students coming from a high context society where manners, appearance and behavior were conservative (for the lack of a better word) usually went through a lot of changes. For example, they would agree to helping someone even though they didn’t mean to because they were too shy to say no, they would buy others lunch/dinner only to be offended that they don’t return the favor.
Most Pakistanis had a hard time dealing with women – girls in their class or professors who taught them. I blame it on this unwritten cultural expectation or rule that anyone who isn’t wearing a hijab is most likely a whore. Religion also polarized Pakistani students, from those who totally shun it being immersed in the society at large, to those who became more attached to it feeling alienated. Sex became a major issue among Indians and Sri Lankans students who often got caught in this complicated web of unsupervised co-ed living very close or often with each other and obviously didn’t know how to deal with it.
Anyway, they were good times!!