Helping Overseas Students
Imagine leaving all your friends and relatives and moving with your family to foreign country where your inability to perform basic functions, like reading a menu in a restaurant, is a constant reminder of how different everything is. This is the overwhelming reality of many children emigrating to the UK/US, often exacerbated by being thrust straight into school. Learning a new culture, perhaps including English, cannot be accomplished without asking countless questions, ranging from the translation of colloquial expressions to appropriate gifts for birthdays and Christmas. These arrivals need people who will answer their questions or simply extend kindness, and this article strives to equip readers to begin to do so.
I joined an English Secondary School. The first day was terrifying. I didn't know anyone. The teacher told a bubbly extrovert to be my buddy but I couldn't understand half of what she said, she spoke so fast. I just smiled and nodded. Our timetables were in some strange code which everyone else understood. Someone patiently explained that the numbers meant classrooms and the letters stood for subjects and teachers’ initials. Meanwhile someone else had stolen my planner and I found it later in a sink completely soaked. My buddy and her group of friends helped me dry it off and quickly adopted me under their care. One of them was in my classes, she took me to the right rooms and waited for me afterwards. Those little acts of kindness made me feel like I could belong here. There was a lot to learn and matching names to faces was difficult. I learnt new words and soon discovered urban dictionary, not before they'd laughed at my accidental innuendos many times.
● Start conversations or just smile and offer to help them find their way around or help explain something.
● Don't be afraid to ask about their country and customs. Show an interest and try to learn about their culture. But remember they are more than just a culture, find out what makes them tick and what you have in common.
● Be patient with their mistakes and questions. They might get frustrated at themselves
● If they don't speak English talk slowly and clearly using simple words. Apps like Google translate can help but sometimes they make mistakes. Try to figure out what level they are and don't patronise if they do speak English.
● As you become friends invite them out or to your house. Their parents may also be struggling to make friends, especially if one of them is at home without a job. If your family is up for it, you can get your parents to make friends with theirs. A lot of people who have newly emigrated to the UK don't get invited to homes very much and this can really make them feel welcome.
In summary, be friendly and helpful and you might just make their transition that little bit easier. The kindness of those new friends on my first day made worlds of difference and left me feeling like I could enjoy my new school. The fact that you've taken the time to read this article suggests that you're just the kind of caring friend they need.
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