The Master in International Management program does incoming students a wonderful service by offering a four-day team building retreat and camping trip in central Oregon. This amazing experience kicks off the start of what I will refer to as “MIM Love.” The team-building excursion facilitates friendships that will last through the 15-27 month program and will even extend beyond graduation. Considering that the MIM cohort is made up of roughly 50 percent international students from countries such as China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Laos, Iran, Jordan, etc., the MIM team building retreat is an excellent way to break through the ice and get classmates used to the kind of close interaction they will engage in for the duration they will be in school.
Once MIM Love has been established among your cohort, you will feel like you’re one big happy family while you’re in the honeymoon phase. This is a wonderful feeling! It is so fun meeting so many new people and having new friends to hang out with! Everyone is excited to learn new words in each other’s languages; laughs are shared over teaching each other the nuances of the different cultures… Everyone wants to put on his or her happy face during this time.
Now, go beyond the fun times and the excitement of getting to know your 40+ new friends and get to know the real person behind that smile. Go beyond basic chatting over good food and reach out to your classmate sitting across you at lunch or next to you in class.
Your international classmates who have moved over here to go to school for the next 15 months have their own individual stories. Some have never been to the U.S. before. This may be the first time they have left home for such a long duration and many who are new to the U.S. are going thorough major culture shock and they may not show it outwardly.
You will discover that your international classmates might have had a very different lifestyle in their home country. Expectations were different in their home country. Back home, the classroom experience was very different. They dressed and acted differently. They used to be outgoing and a “take charge” type of person but now they are not so sure of themselves because they are having to communicate every day in a language that is not their native tongue (and soon, in classes they will have to communicate in business terms in a language that is foreign to them – can you imagine doing this in a foreign language if English is your native tongue?). Maybe they had their own cars and were very independent and now they are in the U.S. and have to rely on public transportation. Most likely your international classmates will miss the food they used to eat at home and some may resort to cooking but may have a difficult time getting to Asian grocery stores that are far away from campus.
So those of you, who are Portland locals or have been living in the Portland Metro area for quite some time and know your way around, reach out to your classmates who are not from the U.S., as well as to those who just moved here from other states. I know that things get quite hectic while you are in school, but take the extra step and offer your classmate that ride home, round up a few of them for a group grocery shopping trip to an Asian grocery store, ask them how they are adjusting to life in the U.S. and see if there is something you can do to help make that adjustment easier. Maybe it is as simple as help take their family member to an appointment or provide advice on updating a resume. Beyond MIM Love, REALLY get to know your classmates. And remember, withhold judgment. You might be surprised when you learn more about the real person under the smiling face.