College is the time to break from the mold by growing up and experiencing new cultures. Even if you’re from Mississippi, part of college life in Starkville is actively making friends in a large student body and in doing so you create your own subcultures. Some at Mississippi State University, though, do not arrive by a car they’ve had since high school with parents to help them move in. Some arrive with passport in hand having never been to America. They have more than just subcultural adjustments to get used to, and there can be a language and communication barrier on top of it all.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of my close friends at MSU are a lot like I am. We have similar interests, our suburban upbringing looks similar, we were involved in similar organizations and teams in high school and we share the same values. College is great since so many people from all over the world are gathered on one campus, each in school pursuing different degrees. To only stick with people from similar backgrounds, whether you are from Mississippi, Montana or Malaysia, is a wasted opportunity. Making friends cross culturally at MSU is easier and more important than you would think.
There is a big need for language tutors, and there are easy ways to get involved. The English as a Second Language (ESL) department needs more students as language partners, which entails simply hanging out and having a conversation to practice English. Additionally, any are welcome to participate in the International Institute’s conversation partner program. Another big need is for people to be ride share partners. Isabelle de Oliveira, a student at MSU from Brazil, said the hardest part of being here is not having a car, though Starkville is a small town.
“The town is prepared for cars,” de Oliveira said. “And the bus schedule and itinerary are not the best. I’m pretty limited in what I want to do.”
Most of us have classes in large auditoriums at some point. I always do group projects with friends. College, especially regarding education, should be about branching out. If you’re an international student, find someone outside of the group from your home country to do a group project. If you’re from around Mississippi, partner with an international student on a project to hear a different perspective, which may not be as “foreign” as you would assume.
Do not let the subculture that you create with friends and classmates in Starkville be exactly like where you’ve come from. Break outside of your comfort zone. You may be surprised with what you can learn from cross-cultural friendships, and you may be surprised to find that it’s a lot easier to relate to each other than you thought.