People come to Europe for many reasons. There are so many beautiful things to see here, and so many exciting things to experience. My reason was to know Spain. Like conocer, know. To be so well acquainted with Spain that she is mi tía or mi abuela.
But being an international student in a foreign country is hard. When you’re just learning the ways of a new country, it isn’t second nature to become really well-acquainted with the other students on campus. People are laughing and speaking in a different language. This is their home turf, and you know nothing about it. It is Spain. It’s not always apparent that you’re an estadounidense (a person from the United States), so you often won’t get approached about it.
When you’re not often approached, you start to want something easier. You want the familiar, especially if the familiar is easier to get. I.E, when you’re studying abroad with a program of other estadounidenses. When they have thirty other people who came from the same places as you, International students, in my case, tend to turn in on themselves.
This group speaks English? Right now, I think in English, and these people are as clueless as I am. So naturally I’ll shelter myself with them. And it’s never bad to have a home community from your home country, but that encapsulates your brain in a little “United States” bubble, and then it’s like you aren’t in Spain at all.
It’s difficult to break away from that. It can be done, but it’s extremely difficult without the help of people from the country where International students are studying.
So I implore you, look around campus. International students are everywhere, and they would like nothing better than for you to reach out to them, and ask them how they’re liking the United States; how they’re liking Oklahoma. Offer them an afternoon or a night out, even if it’s just to the movies or Empire Slice House.
A lot of the time, I get most of my Spanish culture from my host family. Even then, if a Spaniard asked me if I wanted to go to get a bite to eat at a local place, I would jump at that chance. Because that’s why I’m here. Conocer España, to meet Spain. But many International students don’t have that opportunity, and they’re relying on you to help them really experience the country that they’ve traveled across borders to be in.