I love internationals. You all know that. I love when internationals connect with American students because it provides them with an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and really get a deeper experience out of studying abroad. I’ve seen more foreign students than I can count who seem to only spend time with people from their home countries. They live with people from their countries, they walk around campus with students from their countries, they eat and hang out with students from their countries, often the majority of students in their departments are from their own countries (especially engineering majors), and sometimes their professors are even from their home countries. I’ve met students whose English hasn’t improved even though they’ve been living here for a year or more, simply because they spend virtually no time with Americans. So, it’s no surprise that I love to see internationals connect with American students.
Where are their American friends?
What may surprise you is that something I love just as much is seeing internationals connect with internationals from other countries. We Americans often give ourselves a hard time for not knowing a lot about the world, but honestly most people I’ve met from every country don’t know a lot about the rest of the world. It’s great to see international students dip their toes into the waters of something that’s not their homes or the US. They ask questions like: “So what language do they speak in Brazil?” “Hong Kong, is that part of China?” And so on. It’s wonderful. God has made us all beautiful and unique, and seeing students discover that is one of the joys of my job.
Making friends from around the world
So it was fantastic when, a couple weeks ago, a Brazilian Christian girl who’d been coming around all summer brought along a female Colombian friend. This friend, whom I’ll call Carolina, is actually friends with the Italian girl (Francesca) who rededicated her life last year. Our Italian friend is still a devout Catholic and Carolina was not at all interested in becoming Catholic. Since Francesca came to Chi Alpha, Carolina assumed we were a Catholic ministry and never came! The night a couple weeks ago when Carolina did finally come, she was really moved and decided to rededicate her life to God. Praise Jesus! All because one international student was willing to reach across cultural and linguistic lines and befriend another.
Since then, Carolina has come to every service we’ve had and loved it. She also went on a float trip we had two weeks ago. We used inner tubes, which allowed a lot of movement between groups. Carolina and Elisa actually connected really well during the trip. At our end-of-summer-XA BBQ last Tuesday, they connected even more, and I couldn’t help but notice that they looked almost like two sisters, talking and laughing together. That’s the beautiful thing about the Kingdom of God: even when you’re far away from your biological family, God can raise up new brothers and sisters right around you!
I want to encourage you to do the same. Look for opportunities to connect with people who are significantly different than you. Maybe they’re from different countries than you or speak different languages. Maybe they’re skin is a different color or they’re devout adherents of a different religion. Or maybe they just think differently on things like politics. Connecting with people like that is so important because that’s what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. We don’t even need to wait because it’s already here among us.