I find that there can be a stigma around  international students as they often hesitate to break into the crowds of regular students at school. Maybe it’s because they are shy or maybe it is because our culture is actually more ignorant than we like to think.

Throughout my five years at high school, we continuously had international students come and go. However, I spent the majority of the time ignoring them as they always seemed happy staying in their own groups with the other international students who arrived with them. But is this actually the experience that they would want when they travel abroad for a year. My guess would be no.

As travelling overseas is meant to change your perspectives and open your mind to the thousands of cultures out there, to me it appears to be a waste of time spending it with the same culture you came from, be it Latin, European or Asian. I met some of my current best friends when I decided to befriend some internationals in my last year of school and I believe you should do the same.

Life was pretty simple then and I had a good set of friends. But something was missing to me and whilst each of my friends is different in their own ways, we all pivoted around the exact same culture that we grew up in. At this same time, our school had a flood of new international students and this encouraged me to branch out and see what ‘these people’ would be like.

I began talking to a shy German boy in my business class who I could see was heading towards the same cycle that every international student seemed to go through – travel to New Zealand, find other friends from your country, hang out with them until you leave and then exit the country. I wanted this German to break this cycle and so I brought him away from it and he began enjoying the true ‘Kiwi’ experience. He went on to become one of the most loved people at our school and truly broke the stigma that existed around international students.

However, my point is how much I learned from the time that I spent with him. Through this time, I learned so much about the German culture and what type of life they live compared with the life that we have here. He was key in broadening my mind to the world and I felt that I changed so much throughout the year he was here. This was because I feel I am now less ignorant about the world; more often than not the things that they teach in school about the world are wrong or not enough to actually explain the lives that different people have across the world.

I encourage all people to follow this as I know the hundreds of internationals that travel to our New Zealand schools every year and I know how many end up in the same boring cycle of life in this country.

I bet you any money that any international would want the chance to see our true culture here and I know that you would benefit in so many ways from this opportunity. They come from so many varying places across our planet and mine has now become one of my best friends in such a short amount of time. All you have to do is talk to them and it will truly broaden your mind to so many new things that you didn’t know before.

My advice to all of you, no matter what your age is and no matter where you are in life – you will all benefit from an international friend because they will change your perspectives and build you into a much better and open-minded person.

Author: Former student blogger Will Cole has a passion to write and is now pursuing a career in journalism.

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