How do you help international students?

From left to right: Jane Fox, Linfeng, Sara Nickoley, Xiyang

Do you remember the first time you went to college or left home and were a stranger in your new setting? Do you remember the awkwardness, loneliness, and isolation you felt? Now add another stress of speaking a foreign language and being surrounded by people whose conversation and culture you barely know.

All over the United States, international students are coming to study in our universities by the hundreds of thousands, and many are feeling overwhelmed.

Have you ever thought about being a friend to them?

“I was a stranger and you let me in,” are Jesus’ words of commendation for those who welcome the international into their homes and communities.

But how do we do that?

We met Linfeng when he came to our weekly event at Kansas State University, the Conversation Café. Linfeng is a good student who enjoys meeting people. He participated in the Café Bible discussions, an Alpha course, and fun events we sponsored. His questions were always good. You could tell that he was reading the Bible on his own.

After one year, he moved from Manhattan, KS to the K-State campus in Salina. There he connected with more Christians, both college age and older through the church and campus ministry. One older couple regarded him as a son, including him in family events and helping him with his car. The friendships of Christians so moved him that when he found himself in a very difficult situation, he turned to Jesus himself.

Here are a few suggestions to help you connect.

  • If you are connected to a university, you can investigate opportunities the university already has to meet internationals.
    • Do they have a coffee hour where students share their countries and food?
    • Are there community groups formed for friendship?
    • Do churches in your community offer to serve them?
    • How about English conversation circles you can help with or join?
       
  • Bridges International offers a wealth of wisdom, tools, coaching, and opportunities. You will want to check out their website: www.bridgesinternational.com. Particularly helpful is “Bridges in a Box.”
     
  • I created a website as a resource that can help you engage with international students in meaningful conversation and activities, in a group setting or individually. Just visit www.internationalconversationcafe.com.
     
  • Some highlights:
    • Favorite get-to-know you games that are interactive and fun.
       
    • Easy-to-use discussion guide section. Each guide is two pages long and can be printed double-sided. They do not require much preparation time by the facilitator. (You have permission to use and distribute them freely. However, they are not for sale.)
       
    • Lifestyle Topics has conversation topics and questions, like personality types, stress, or holidays.
       
    • Bible Discussion offers easy-to-follow guides on topics from the New Testament such as Jesus’ miracles, teachings, and life. The Old Testament guides cover basic themes such as faith and sacrifice. It also covers people such as Noah, David, and Jonah. “Biblical Topics,” offer discussions on suffering, wealth and poverty, and the reliability of the Bible.
       
    • Are you interested in helping middle school or high school students with neighborhood or church-based English clubs? “Foxtrot English” has games, idioms and slang, a relevant topic and songs.
       
    • Booklets explain the good news of Jesus and how to live in harmony with God with few words and vivid illustrations that communicate truth in an easy relevant way. There are instructions how to print these booklets.
       
    • Community Groups for Internationals. Some internationals want to examine topics of faith in a small group setting. Since building trust with believers is the foundation that leads people to faith, a community group can be an important part of letting people get to know and trust you. Starting with “Can Life Be Deeply Satisfying?” you will find stories from the gospels that explain the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other topics include healing, prayer, evil and purpose in life. The lessons mainly feature stories that are easily understood. There will be suggestions for movies, skits, and games that coordinate with the lessons.

Sharing experiences and ideas helps all of us grow to be humble but skilled servants in the kingdom of God. I would love to hear about your journey to befriend international students. Please comment below – I’d love to chat more!

My hope is that these resources will help you deepen your friendships with internationals and in doing so you will both experience God’s amazing love.