By: Claire Kang
Despite UC Davis' huge campus and large student population, it can be difficult to make friends across cultures. That is where the Pal Program can help. The program has helped international students connect to the diversity of America by introducing them to new friends. Jane Kim is an international student from South Korea, and she is a huge fan of the Pal program. She has joined the program every quarter for two years, and she wants to share her meaningful experiences with the program.
Q: What motivated you to join the program?
JK: I just wanted to have a friend. There were always more domestic students than international students in my classes, but I found it particularly hard to find a domestic friend with whom I could communicate.... That was perhaps because I did not know much about American culture, or simply because my English worked as a barrier between me and them. I thought the Pal program would help me to make a breakthrough in this kind of situation.
Q: What are your favorite memories from the Pal Program, and why?
JK: Well, honestly, I didn't have particular events I liked most. It's funny because that is actually what made me appreciate the program. My pals and I just shared small moments together: walking around on campus, picking a restaurant in downtown, worrying about finals together, and so on. All those small moments helped us to put aside our differences and click with each other.
Q: Did you have any language barriers between you and your pal(s)? How did you try to overcome it?
JK: Sometimes, based on my lack of English skills, my pals misunderstood my speaking or meaning. Therefore, I always explained that I wanted them to please let me know if they feel uncomfortable by any of my word choices or some sentences. I told them, sometimes I lack the right vocabulary or mispronounce things. I would like to communicate with you and learn all of the things including culture as well. Once I mentioned these sentences, they would more freely comment on or correct my speaking and attitude. If I did not explain my thoughts, they might continue on with misunderstanding my words’ meaning or attitude.
Q: Did you have any cultural barriers between you and your pal(s)?
JK: Well, surprisingly, there were less cultural barriers than I had expected. This might sound a little extreme, but I've realized that people are basically the same the world over regardless of culture.
Q: Interesting! Could you clarify what you mean by this?
JK: I realized that it was more about personalities than cultures that really defined who we are. Meeting different American friends was not so different from meeting different Korean friends. Actually, I had watched many American TV shows and films before I came to the states, which shaped some kind of perceptions in my mind without my being aware of them. I was unconsciously prepared for my new American friends to be very liberal, confident and outgoing. Later when I met my pals, I was surprised to see the varieties of personalities from them. Most of them did not really fit my stereotypes of American girls; some who were outgoing, others who were incredibly shy and quiet, others who were pretty traditional.
Q: Do you have any words to say to international students joining the Pal program this year?
JK: Joining the Pal Program is a great opportunity to meet new friends who are more open to different cultures. Don’t be shy and come sign up!
The Pal Program helps students discover new friends across cultures. Registration for Winter 2019 will open on Wednesday, December 5th. Click here to register!