I hate to be blunt, and hostile, but what I am about to write will seem that way. It is just a problem and it is frustrating.
Honestly, the article [Building Relationships Across the Pond; Embracing Diversity in the Classroom] is pretty true. I have friends on both sides, and my international student friends just hangout, eat and talk with other international students, and rarely interact with American students. On the flip side, my, for all intents and purposes, “domestic friends” also hardly interact with international students. It is hard. For one, there is a huge communication barrier, and not just language or accents. In Asia, when people talk, a “How are you?” is not a greeting but an actual conversation starter that leads to a short if not important dialogue. Here, “How are you?” is shouted across the quad and is used very casually. People in the United States do not talk unless it is important.
There is also the cultural barrier. A key example is last weekend: Homecoming. Besides the fact that we know our parents won’t pay X amount of money to fly 10+ hours to come visit us, we also have no idea or comprehension as to the importance of Homecoming. Most of our universities in our home countries are massive and it does not really matter when alumni go back, let alone watch a sports game. If you were at the game, I can guarantee that most of the international students were not there. We just have no interest and no understanding as to the game’s importance. Yet, in the United States, Homecoming is not a college thing but a high school phenomenon as well. Dances, kings and queens, parades; the whole idea is just foreign.
At larger schools, a lack of interaction between these two bodies is fine, because they are so large that each group has its own culture. Here, the overwhelming culture is Western liberalism and it is starkly different from what most international students grew up with. This culture can be hostile, and is one of the reasons why international students band together. There is a lack of understanding if not ignorance that also contributes to the lack of interaction. A couple weeks back, I posted on Facebook a status asking students to wear yellow in support of the protests that were happening in Hong Kong. Protests for democracy. I thought, Occidental is such a social justice school, there are bound to be some people who are interested. Sadly, nothing happened. I am sad to say, but as much as Occidental prides itself on international students and diversity, the huge lack of understanding and ignorance is so pervasive that I am not surprised that international students just stick together. Because at least, when we are in our respective groups, we understand each other.