By Jill Parker, AMIS Amigo Director
Grind, grind, grind….is a term used by many American students describing college, and especially the end of a semester. I am a college mom and have a front row seat to see the responsibilities that students have for managing their school load, perhaps a job or research, study groups, sleeping, and maybe a moment of fun. When our son visits on a weekend, I sit next to him and listen to the constant ping of lab and study group messages, and I look over his shoulder to see the 40 plus emails he gets on a daily basis.
I remember that college and graduate school were hard, but I did not have the many details to manage that seem to dominate the lives of students today. Many of our AMIS international students are in extremely hard programs. Some are pursuing graduate degrees and many of them participate in research projects. While they may not have the time to step away for a few hours for an outing, finding ways to support them and letting them know you are rooting for them can go a long way. Just as we may not always see or speak with friends and family as often as we prefer, knowing they are there and that we could reach out to them when needed, gives one a much needed sense of hope, drive, and determination to keep moving forward. This is the same support that we can offer to our Amigo international student friends.
Sending a quick hello message, GIF and emojis, cheering them on, and making them smile, can be small, but meaningful, ways to help keep up their enthusiasm. They may be able to have a short online meeting to chat or play a game that helps them unwind from a hard day. When I drive into the city from out of the perimeter and think I have an extra hour, I send out a few messages to see if any of my Amigos would like to take a walk, get tea, or go to the market. Often it doesn’t work, and that is OK, but when it does, they are so grateful to have that spontaneous reprieve from their school demands. I have even made them energy ball boxes for their finals week and dropped them off when visiting my son.
Use your imagination to think of fresh ways to stay connected even when time seems limited. Facing the strain of college demands layered with the constant mental drain of communication and social barriers, missing family and not having local friends, is a burden many of our Amigo students face. After working with the Amigo program for almost a year, students often share with me the daily stresses they feel as an international student. For those returning home, there are mixed feelings of excitement to see loved ones and familiar places, along with the sadness of leaving the US. There may be uncertainties about what happens next or they may be facing difficult circumstances in their country of origin.
Let's keep showing our Amigo student friends the best of America - empathy, enthusiasm, support, kindness, and the hospitality of friendship.