Hopefully, you go to a high school or a college that supports the international exchange student program. If you do, you've definitely noticed people from other countries on your campus. My junior year of high school, I made the decision to reach out and befriend one of these exchange students. I am now a sophomore in college, and I can confidently say that it was one of the best choices I've ever made.
There are a lot of reservations people have about exchange students. Some say they are nervous to develop close ties to someone who is so different from themselves, because they're afraid they won't have enough similarities in order to relate. Others are hesitant to create a bond with someone who will only be in the country anywhere between one semester to a year. These are valid points; but they are worth the risk.
So if you're debating whether to ask that kid from Hong Kong to have lunch with you, go for it! Here are seven reasons you won't regret it:
1. You will learn so much about another culture.
You can read about other places all you want, but it will never give you as much knowledge as experiencing it. Exchange students have real life insights about countries you may have never considered going to. Engaging in a friendship with someone foreign will open your eyes to social issues, political situations, and ways of life you wouldn't have examined before. You'll get a primary source of information and learn so much from them.
2. You'll learn new languages and dialects.
One of my favorite things to do with my foreign exchange student friend is talk about how we say certain words. Even though he speaks another language entirely, it's always entertaining to examine how we speak English differently.
Whether they're from England, Japan, France, Chile, Germany, or Bulgaria, you are guaranteed a beautiful talking voice. Everybody loves a good accent, and anyone who says different is lying.
4. You have someone who is there for you from another part of the world.
Even when they're not physically there, they are always there. There is something so comforting about knowing you have love and support so far from home.
5. The prospect of visiting them in their home country is so exciting!
Hopefully your bond with this exchange student is so strong that you can't imagine not wanting to go and visit them! It will give you an opportunity to learn about their country and their culture first hand. This also puts less of a damper on my next topic...
6. The tearful goodbyes are worth it.
Admittedly, this is always the worst part. You'll know going into the friendship that they will have to go home eventually, but that doesn't make it any easier. Your heart will break knowing how much you're going to miss them. But you're so lucky you found someone worth missing that much.
7. The long-awaited reunions are unbelievably happy.
There is no better feeling than seeing that friend again after months, or even years apart. It almost feels unreal at first. But if you do get to see your exchange student again after their initial departure, you are so, so lucky.
So, take the plunge. Decide to be vulnerable and meet up with that new kid from that other country. Make them feel at home, and make them feel wanted. You never know what kind of spectacular relationship you can get out of it, or how amazing of a person you might meet.