10 Ways to Build Community with International Students

This is a featured post by Karen Keyser.  Karen is the Director for Chi Alpha International. In her free time she enjoys photography, her dog Tucker and a great cup of tea. You can connect with her on   Facebook  . 

This is a featured post by Karen Keyser. Karen is the Director for Chi Alpha International. In her free time she enjoys photography, her dog Tucker and a great cup of tea. You can connect with her on Facebook

Because of intense academic pressure, it is really challenging to find ways to build community within international students’ busy schedules.  Here’s some things we’ve tried to incorporate to build community.

1) Food! Everyone loves food and having international-friendly food really builds community.  For snacks, serve pita and hummus rather than chips and dip. Chicken is a favorite with most cultures and fresh fruit is a winner every single time. And always, always have vegetarian options. We avoid pork altogether at events (no pepperoni pizza) to continue to say “welcome” to our Muslim friends.

2) Cook together. Even better…take them to an international grocery to get the ingredients, and then cook together!   It’s amazing what enjoying their cooking creations does to build warmth in community.

3) Games.  Keep an atmosphere of laughter and warmth when it comes to playing games.  Try to have games that are not too language or culturally dependent.  Our group enjoys Gestures, Catch Phrase, and Murder, as well as simple card games like Uno and Spoons.

4) Culture Nights. Choose a culture and have a night where they cook, share their cultures’ music and dance and art, and share a testimony from someone in that culture. 

5) Sports—and ping pong!  Internationals often love sports, especially football (soccer)!  In our group, Haydee from the Philippines invites students to play ping ping on Saturday afternoons. She always has a great group of busy graduate students who show up for her “Ping Pong gang.”  

6) Holiday parties.  Internationals enjoy learning about American culture, so including them in Superbowl parties, Christmas celebrations, and Easter egg dying can be a lot of fun and help students to feel connected to our culture. 

7) Dance!  We’ve had a ton of fun teaching internationals square dancing and line dancing with a professional caller.  Spontaneous cultural dances often break out at other events, and there’s nothing like fun dancing to build community.

8) Grocery shopping.  One of my volunteers said that the best thing she ever did to connect with her busy student was regular grocery shopping.  The student and volunteer could visit while they did something that the student always wanted to make time to do.

9) Sightseeing together.  Taking advantage of academic breaks & weekends to do touristy things together creates special community memories. We’ve enjoyed DC tours, corn maizes, aquariums, and art galleries with our international friends. 

10) Road Trip!  My all-time favorite way to build community with internationals is at a retreat.  Having extended time to cook together, hike, do puzzles, chat into the night, answer questions, share testimonies, and sing under the stars does wonders for building a loving community.

The Chi Alpha Retreat Life

Fall is in the air and XA fall retreat is right around the corner!

Deanna Hartley is a 2014 Georgetown grad from Portland, Oregon. She is a proud Chi Alpha Alumna.

Deanna Hartley is a 2014 Georgetown grad from Portland, Oregon. She is a proud Chi Alpha Alumna.

My name is Deanna Hartley and I joined the XA family fall of my senior year after attending the season retreat.

Crystal, a good friend of mine, had invited me along with my friend Erika to participate. At first I didn’t know what to expect but after being open to worshipping in a way I was unfamiliar with, I began to let go of any fears I had about expressing my praise and worship in public and completely let God take over my experience. Erika and I would stay up late at night in our hotel room talking about how great the sermons were and how much we enjoyed the music.

Fellowshipping with the Georgetown XA was like hanging out with family that I hadn’t seen in a long time and I liked it. I began showing up to the Wednesday Open Table’s and found myself wanting to dive deeper in His word and spend more time working on my relationship with Him. After hearing an announcement stating that there were only two spots open for the spring missionary trip in Atlanta, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that God wanted me to go.

Spending a week in Atlanta spreading God’s love was unbelievable. I was aware that we were down there to be a blessing to others but I couldn’t help but realize that the people, who we were helping, became blessings to us as well. Today, I trust the Lord and walk in complete faith. Instead of worrying about what’s going to happen next in my life, I thank Him for what he has already done and is doing behind the scenes.

My life changed completely after joining XA and it wouldn’t have happened the way it did if I hadn’t said yes to Crystal’s invitation to the retreat.