Recap: UNT International's 'Do You Speak American' Workshop

If you have ever been somewhere different by yourself, you know how lonely being in an unfamiliar place is. Now add the disadvantages of a cultural barrier and imagine how much harder that is. UNT International’s “Do You Speak American” workshop o Feb. 14 discussed the various challenges which come with these cultural barriers and provided a setting that allowed international students to get to know each other.

“Do You Speak American” was part of the UNT International Student Workshop Series. The workshop started off with a conversation on what it means to “speak American,” to which the attendees seemed to agree that “speaking American” is the various pieces of slang and pop cultural references that Americans tend to use in day-to-day conversations.

Because of this cultural barrier, international students often feel like they lack the tools to talk to American students. A student that attended the workshop commented, “because I'm an international student and a non-traditional student, I don't feel like I can really have a conversation with other students. I can communicate with them, but I can't really have a conversation.”

In addition to the cultural barriers that international students face, the workshop discussed how being an international student can cause a disconnect from their culture. According to the individuals that attended and ran the workshop, after living in the United States for a while, they feel like they lose a part of their culture, and as if they no longer fit into either community.

Mutsa Majero, one of the individuals that ran the workshop, said that there are certain parts of her culture from Zimbabwe that she's lost after living in the United States for 16 years. Majero said that when she visits, people she knew in Zimbabwe comment on how American she has become.

Something that was pointed out by the people in the workshop is that UNT does not have many events or opportunities for international students to interact with each other or with American culture. Mujero, in recounting her time as an RA in the international dorms at the university she went to, stated “we would hold fun events for international students all the time. They were so popular that the other students would show up for them too.”

A suggestion that was brought up during the workshop to help international students interact more with American culture was to set up a system to have faculty invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Since there may be security risks and a time-consuming process to have volunteers host Thanksgiving dinner for international students, a workaround was discussed to have faculty volunteer to host Thanksgiving dinner for these students.

UNT International plans on doing similar communication workshops focused on different topics in the future. At the moment, workshops are expected to be on Thursdays every two weeks.

Header image courtesy of Unsplash.

Header designed by Kylie Phillips.