By Meg Dedyne
Growing up in a small town not too far from Michigan State University, some might wonder how I ever came to be homesick my freshman year. But everything about the culture was different. I didn’t have my same friends, my classes were 10 times the size they were in high school and I was completely overwhelmed. About halfway through my first semester, I became friends with a few international students in my journalism classes at MSU. They expressed the same feeling of culture shock, except on an escalated scale. Their families were not 20 miles away, the food was completely different and oh yeah, there was that language barrier. I grew tremendous empathy for these students and started to bond over these feelings all of us were having.
I grew extremely appreciative of my international friends, as they didn’t judge me. They didn’t ask how I could be so homesick, they didn’t laugh when I went home for dinner, they just nodded in understanding, because they got me.
I admit that it was hard to break out of my small town bubble. I was exposed to international culture in high school, but it wasn’t until I started working as the communications intern at the MSU Office for International Students and Scholars, that I felt like I became a part of the international community in the Greater Lansing area. As the communications intern, I have talked to students that change my whole perspective on going to school in the U.S. International students have so many components to think about and complete when planning to attend a U.S. university.
This cultural understanding and the barriers these students have to go through every single day has completely opened my mind up to international audience viewpoints and messaging in my classes and internships. I think about their needs and which platforms to reach the international community on. I listen to their stories and feel like I have become a better storyteller from their inspiring and persevering backgrounds.
I will never forget the first international student event I came to because it wasn’t like anything I had experienced before at MSU. No matter what country, no matter what culture, everyone was laughing and talking and had common interests. It felt like family. International students have taught me to accept, get to know and understand those who are different than me, which has made me immensely proactive in the PR world.