By Sola John
Strategic goal 1.1 of Hochschule Rhein-Waal (HSRW) Strategic Development Plans for 2017–2022 declares that HSRW is a leader in internationalization. How true is in terms of building communication and integration between students from more than 120 different nationalities?
To answer this, Catcher on the Rhein asked people if they develop true friendships or, if communication is left at a simple “hello”.
“[Back home] I went to a university where everyone was from Spain,” said Monim Niya El-Hamdi, an International Relations student from Spain. “I came to Kleve to meet different kinds of people and be friends with them.”
Acquaintances form, but friendships not as often. For many people, nothing is shared beyond simple greetings. El-Hamdi says that at university people should interact with different cultures.
“People still hang out with people they share the same culture with,” El-Hamdi said.
Language and the Comfort Zone
Khaled Saleh, a Mechanical Engineering student from Egypt says that maybe speaking in one’s native language can create a barrier.
“It’s too inconvenient to switch to English,” Saleh said. “It takes the fun out of the equation. Working and studying hinders exploration in another country, and social groups are already formed in the first semester.”
Language ties some cultures together. Shared culture and language creates a comfort zone for many people. Maybe because of this, it is more comfortable for Indians to stick with Indians, Latinos with Latinos, Chinese with Chinese, Bulgarians with Bulgarians, Africans with Africans and so on as some students say.
“Common struggles make you click,” said Hari Haran, a Science Communication and Bionics student from Malaysia.
Comfort zones seem to play a pivotal role when cultural interactions between students are examined. People prefer to stick with someone that has the same or a similar culture as them. At university though, students have the chance to learn and experience different cultures without having to travel to another country.
“In uni, I feel like I am in different places at the same time,” said Jan Demidovits, an International Relations student from Estonia.
The number of people in a class is also an important factor, says John Cole, a Science Communication and Bionics student from Sierra Leone. Cole says that he only has 14 classmates, and they are from all over the world.
“The people in my class are from Sierra Leone, Malaysia, Germany, Italy, India, Uganda, Pakistan and so on,” Cole said.
He says that small classes with diverse classmates makes it easier to integrate. In contrast to Cole’s class, Aditya Jaiswal, a Mechanical Engineering student from India has approximately 120 students in his class.
“My class is divided,” Jaiswal said.
Students in small classes are more likely to socialize with different nationalities. Whereas, a bigger class size leads to more natural segregation, Jaiswal says.
Students say that forming deep interactions with others takes time. Some students say that they do not have enough leisure time to really dive into substantial communication or into a fellow classmate’s culture. Marvin Dzikowski, an International Relations student suggests a solution.
“Go straight to the question,” Dzikowski said. “Do not waste time asking superficial stuff.”
Sufficient time might not be provided, or culture clashes might hinder proper communication, but the beauty of different cultures remains. For some, a simple “hello” and “how are you?” might be enough. Even in this, something beautiful can also be seen or shared.