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Bridging the gap: how to connect cross-culturally

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Grace Kish

Contributor

Despite a slight decline in the number of incoming international students this year, Troy University is one of the most ethnically diverse colleges in the South.

According to Joe McCall, a lecturer of history who has been involved with the international program for decades, one out of every eight people you meet on campus is from another country. McCall said there are roughly 65 countries that are actively represented at Troy.

Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. has observed that 70 to 80 languages can be heard just from walking around the quad.

While the international program gives students the opportunity to study in America, the program also gives American students the opportunity to make connections with people from all over the world.

Savannah Cousins, the president of the International Student Cultural Organization (ISCO) and a senior human relations major from Ramstein, Germany, exemplifies what it means to seize that opportunity. Cousins became involved in ISCO her freshman year, and describes ISCO as how she found her “group of people.”

 “The friendships I’ve made (through ISCO) have truly changed my life here at Troy,” Cousins said, adding it was a place for people to feel accepted. 

Cousins advises those who trying to make international friends to “just talk.”

Kaitlin Woods, a junior biomedical sciences major from Haleyville, is the vice president of the organization. Woods said people are all the same, and to treat international students the same way as American students. 

She said ISCO tries to focus on connections between people. 

“That’s the most important thing of what we do,” Woods said.

Cousins’ last piece of advice for everyone at Troy is to “reach out, go to international events, go to ISCO events and just step out of your comfort zone.” Cousins said that starting a conversation with someone is a great way to help them feel at home.

For those interested in being more involved in Troy’s international presence, ISCO recommends participating in programs such as Conversation Partners and Study Abroad Buddies to tear down cultural and language barriers, which can which can initially prevent U.S. and international students from building relationships.

“The thing that is most difficult is the language probably,”
said Zhifei Zheng, a freshman broad­cast journalism major from Nanjing, China . “Something I can’t explain. And then it’s the food.”

In addition to this, ISCO hosts Country Nights every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Trojan Center Ballroom. Representatives from different countries share anything from food to dances from their cultures. McCall and Cousins agree it is an amazing way to expand your world view without leaving campus.

“The more we get to know each other, the less likely we are to attack each other,” said McCall. “It creates a safety net for world peace.”