As the International Student Orientation Coordinator for the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS), I am often asked how new international students can make friends easily and get involved on campus. My best advice is to find a Registered Student Organization (RSO) that consists of people who have similar interests or backgrounds, or to start your own club if one does not meet your needs. MSU has over 550 Registered Student Organizations that include nationality clubs, hobby clubs, religious clubs, major-specific clubs, sports clubs, Greek clubs, political clubs, social awareness clubs, and so on.
A list of all that MSU has to offer can be found at http://studentlife.msu.edu/current_students/rso/orgs.htm. A list of clubs that may be of particular interest to international students are listed on the OISS website: http://oiss.isp.msu.edu/students/clubs.htm
One way to meet members of different clubs and to find new people who may have similar interests is to attend the weekly Coffee Hour every Friday from 4 -6 pm in the International Center food court (plus, you can drink free coffee or hot tea). Groups often give away tickets to their annual events or hold programs during Coffee Hour.
Why should you join a club? When you are new to a huge campus like MSU, it can be overwhelming to make new friends, especially if you are shy or don’t feel comfortable with your conversation skills in English. Organizations allow you to find like-minded people to hang out with, plus you might find other students who speak your language, eat your food, observe your religion, and understand your culture and what it’s like to be an international student so far from home with unique challenges.
Joining a club can help you establish a base of new friends and an important support network that can help you transition to life in the U.S. and being a new student at MSU. Once you have your base of friends, you meet their friends and get invited to events where you’ll make even more friends. Pretty soon you’ll be a well-connected, popular Spartan with lots of invitations to cool events!
I think all new international students should join the International Students Association (ISA). It is free to join, and ISA (the umbrella organization for international student organizations) hosts many free and fun events throughout the year that you don’t want to miss! They send a weekly newsletter that will keep you updated on what’s going on for international students and can give you great advice. Check out their website and Facebook page: https://www.msu.edu/~msuisa/
I love singing karaoke and drinking bubble tea, but MSU doesn’t have a Karaoke Fanatics Club or a Bubble Tea Addicts Club, so what if I want to start my own? The Department of Student Life in 101 Student Services helps students apply to start new RSOs. Be creative and have fun making up your own group!
In a future blog, I will discuss the importance of branching out and having friends who are not from your home country and the benefits of hanging out with people other than fellow ultimate Frisbee players to add some diversity to your life! For a quick jump-start to your social life, however, join a student group or start your own soon!
Amber Cordell is an International Student Advisor at the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) and is the International Student Orientation Coordinator for OISS.