For a group of international students at Central Michigan University, studying abroad in the United States brought the expectation of a quality education.
What they didn’t expect was to form life-long friendships.
These students, coming from all over the globe, gather in an informal group each night to share dinner and conversation about their cultures, countries and experiences in the United States.
German foreign exchange student Caro Jacobs said the group of international students has become like a family to her.
“Being a part of this group has helped me a lot,” she said. “It’s nice to know there will always be someone here to talk. I’ve found it was easier to make friends with international students because we all had orientation together and kind of established a group.”
Since many students returning to CMU have the advantage of already-established friendships, Jacobs said it was easier to approach those who didn’t know anyone.
“It was definitely harder to make friends with the American students, because most of them who were returning already knew each other,” Jacobs said. “It was easy to make friends with the people I had already met at orientation, which was this group of people from around the world.”
While Jacobs has enjoyed her time at CMU, she said her return to Germany at the end of the semester will mean leaving behind some of her best friends she has made in the U.S.
“I will miss it here because this group has shared our every day lives together,” Jacobs said. “Campus life is very different in Germany because your housing is separate from your schooling, but here, your campus life and personal life is all inclusive.”
The group includes many international students from varying countries, spanning from Germany and Spain to France and Singapore.
Since many international students formed relationships through shared housing in Herrig Hall, the group has always welcomed any international student to join them. No matter how many show up to each meal, good conversation and great company is always expected.
Tapita Titti, a junior who is visiting from France said her experience with this group has given her exposure to other countries in addition to the U.S.
“We’re all from really different places,” Titti said. “So, when we get together we can talk about our countries that we come from and how they compare to the United States.”
Members of the group have not restricted themselves to just schoolwork, they’ve made time for fun, too. Organizing weekend road trips themselves, the group has traveled to several Michigan tourist areas including Mackinaw, Detroit and Lake Michigan.
As the group sat around the dinner table singing a rap song in unison that they had heard on a trip to Detroit, it was clear an unbreakable bond had been formed.
This group has formed such a tight bond that it has become noticeable to traditional students, including Dearborn junior Christina Zardus.
“I work at the Saxe/Herrig/Celani desk, so I’m always seeing all the familiar faces,” Zardus said. “Since I’m a junior still living in the dorms, it’s hard not feeling like such an upperclassmen, but when I’m with this group I definitely don’t feel that way.”
Zardus said her interaction with this group and its inspiring members has helped her foster a love for other cultures.
“I’m going to study abroad next semester in Italy, so I’m really interested in diversity and their cultures,” Zardus said. “Plus, these people are just really cool.”
Singapore sophomore Jonathan Yeo said he has benefited from being a part of a group that simply has people he can relate to.
“Having a group of friends like this has definitely helped me,” Yeo said. “Even though we’re from different countries, we’re in the same situation being in a foreign country. We all really relate to one another.”