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Intercultural communication

Tips for Better Cross-Cultural Communication

MSU welcomes a high number of new international students fall semester each year. MSU hosts students from more than 130 countries and they are an important part of our highly internationalized university. They also face a diverse assortment of challenges as they settle into campus life. Everyone can help in making them feel welcome in our community.

International students enrich our campus in countless ways, but the first days on campus can be filled with confusion. They bring with them the same issues that all new students bring, but they have additional challenges as well. Language barriers, cultural differences, and fatigue from long distance travel are a few obvious issues facing new international students.

For those who wish to become involved in MSU’s international community, let me bring to your attention the many volunteer activities organized by Community Volunteers for International Programs (CVIP). Some examples include serving as “Friendship Families” or donating used household items with the Lending Center.

We hope you will find the list of suggestions for intercultural communication below helpful. Thank you for your role in helping to make MSU a great international university. The OISS staff looks forward to working with you in serving MSU's international students.

  • The first days in a new environment are confusing for all students. Please be flexible, tolerant and patient to understand the additional needs of international students. When facing a communication barrier, speak slower, not louder. Allow pauses and write things down. International students may not understand immediately and will be able to refer to it later if it is in writing.
  • Pointing something out on a map can help with communication. Use handouts, visual aids, and gestures.
  • Paraphrase or check for understanding. Repeat and recap as needed.
  • Smile. Ask about them: their name, where they are from and their travel experiences to arrive here.
  • Use simple language. Avoid idioms, jargon, and slang.
  • Try to display empathy in your tone of voice.
  • Listen actively.
  • Stories of international students experiences in our community make great reading. Click here to read the winning essays written by MSU international students.

Experiencing the cultures of the world in our community enriches us all in many ways. As we encounter some cultural differences in our relations on campus, we have the chance to learn, reflect, practice and grow. Thanks to everyone for helping to make MSU a great international university.


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