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Experts Suggest Ways to Help International Students Make Friends with American Students

This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from | Last week, we told you how some international students have few friends in their host countries when they study overseas. One study in the United States found that 38 percent of foreign students said they had no close American friends. Communications specialist Elisabeth Gareis studied more than 450 foreign students.VOA's Jessica Stahl also investigated the issue in her blog The Student Union. Her survey showed 75 percent of foreign students said they have more than two American friends. But 10 percent reported having no American friends.Elisabeth Gareis, at Baruch College in New York, says efforts to improve relationships between the two groups of students have yet to be studied in detail. She says these efforts should begin with the college or university. Elisabeth Gareis says teaching institutions should build systems that support contact. They can do that, she says, with group activities early in the school year. She suggests taking walks, going on bicycle, field or camping trips, and attending parties, sporting events or film festivals. She says such activities should be held repeatedly to bring students together throughout the school term. Elisabeth Gareis also suggests that foreign students share housing with American students. Michigan State University is known for its programs for international students. Last year, about 5,900 students from 133 countries attended Michigan State. They made up perhaps 12 percent of the total university population. Peter Briggs directs the Office for International Students and Scholars at Michigan State. He says more foreign students are expected to register this year. Many students and community members are trained and prepared to help foreign students. The volunteers assist new students as they complete government requirements and find their academic advisors. Peter Briggs says the volunteers also help answer the traditional questions of new people anywhere: 'Where do I get an identification card? Which is the best bank? What is my cell phone plan? How do I get a Social Security number or driver's license?' He says that kind of information is shared both formally and informally as students advise other students.' "We're really supporting that network," he says.Peter Briggs also notes that if the new students make friends as they begin school, they will come to feel part of the life and traditions of the university.For VOA Special English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 23Aug2012)
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