By Yvonne

We had interviewed an international student Chase before, who was greatly confused by the unwelcoming arrangements to the newcomers. But we would also like to tell that things may not be that bad, please hold your anxiety and read the story of a local-international friendship.

After calling for contributions from international students, we received a message from a student, who was later found to be one of the committee members of the New Asia Intercultural Club, enthusiastically offering help to share our post. Until then did we realize the presence of such a society in CUHK — a society that aims to foster interactions between locals and international students. We then invited one of the committees of the club, Anson, to have an interview with us.

New Asia Intercultural Club

New Asia Intercultural Club was formerly known as “NAmigo”. NAmigo is founded by a bunch of locals and internationals who would very much wish to break the language barriers for greater interactions. NA refers to New Asia College and the name implied the involvement of a group of NA students. Whereas for “Amigo”, it means “friends” in Spanish.

Later, NAmigo was acknowledged by the college and received support for them to transform into a club. Since then, the newly formed New Asia Intercultural Club would hold cultural tours and hiking activities regularly to bind the local and international students together.

“I thought that four years of university life is our best and maybe only chance to interact with foreigners, besides, I would like to take the challenge of speaking in English,” said Anson. These expectations pushed him to meet people of different nationalities.  What Anson said is probably local students’ most prevalent idea towards foreigners–speaking fluent English and are different from us.

But soon, he realized that international students are not a real-life dictionary or merely means to get ourselves a seemingly more diverse network. Instead, they can be his friends, as close as any others.

One step closer

“My best friend last year is a Japanese,” Anson said, “Last year, I was the committee of Japanese society, and when I was holding booth for our annual event, a Japanese came to me randomly to ask for ways to get into a track and field team.” Coincidentally Anson got a friend who was a member of the track and field team, so he introduced his friend to the Japanese to offer help.

After that Anson invited his friend and the Japanese student to have a meal. At the supper, the Japanese showed interests for Hong Kong stuff, so Anson asked if he liked hiking or not. He said yes. Their common interest matches naturally, and it set a reason for them to meet again. A friendship was then built.

“It was odd at first. We just met once, and we were merely more than strangers. A bit of courage sparked this friendship.”

To facilitate communication between people of different cultural backgrounds, not only courage is required, but also empathy and cooperation. Anson is now a committee member of New Asia Intercultural Club. There are students of various nationalities joining the committee with him. To make sure that everyone in the board can join the discussion, they would use English instead of Cantonese to communicate in the meeting.

“We have Indonesian and Korean in the committee, mostly we talk in English, but sometimes we would use Indonesian, Putonghua or Korean. It is hilarious that when the Korean talks, some female committee members will keep on imitating his accent because they are big fans of Korean pop culture,” says Anson with a natural smile.

Besides New Asia Intercultural Club, his hostel was also a great place for him to be in contact with many international students. Anson lived in I-house last year where a majority of residents were non-locals. “We do not have a residents’ association there; our connections depend on ourselves,” said Anson. It may seem that the hostel would be dull without an association to connect the residents, but that’s hardly the reality. Anson said, “Even if you do not go to them, the international students will come to you themselves and invite you to their parties. We had parties and drank together in the hostel.”

Distance in between

In spite of the intimacy between Anson and the non-locals, he admitted that the campus was not perfect for non-locals. For example, a lot of menus in campus canteens are available in Chinese only, or the translations are too weird to be understood. Anson said, “I once brought my friend to SHHO canteen, and I suggested him to order the chicken in Sichuan chilli sauce.” Ever since then, his friend would only order that particular dish in SHHO canteen because he could not identify other dishes.”

Other than I-house, Anson had lived in local halls as well before. Some Koreans also proposed that they could not understand hostel announcements. But fortunately, they got an ardent floor tutor. “He would knock on us and had a chit-chat with the residents, so sometimes he would invite the international students to join the hall activities.”

It is straight-forward for an intercultural club to hold their discussions in English. But in local halls, as most of the residents are locals, the conversations were set in Cantonese. How can international students immerse into the group? Anson replied, “Indeed there are times that we talked cheerily and the international students who could not follow the conversation would feel left out. But some of us would take up the role of translation to let them understand the situation.”

Anson also knew an international friend in Chung Chi College. He joined the hall sports team and became the captain of the team. Though he could only speak in English, the team mates were welcoming, and they liked him much. “Perhaps it is better for international students to join sports teams where communication in words and dialogues were less important,” Anson suggested.

Editor’s words:

Anson’s passion for creating an intercultural environment sheds light on the local-international integration. Despite the presence of some unfriendly facilities or arrangements in CUHK, there are still locals who would like to know you and listen to you. Unlike Anson, I, the author of this article, have little courage to approach others, but if you bump into me in the canteen and ask for some recommendations on dishes, I won’t hesitate in taking up the role of translation for you.

Facebook: New Asia Intercultural Club

 

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