This is Part 3 of our series ‘Surviving as an International Student’. Today, we cover Friendship and Dating. We hope that African students studying abroad and those contemplating doing so may find these materials useful
Your first weeks as an international student will be ones of adjustment and you may experience culture shock.
The people you pass may smile, say, “Hello, how are you?” and keep walking past you. People might not know where your country is located. What have you gotten yourself into?
You may have to weave yourself into the society as soon as you can in order to enjoy your life. You may encounter difficulties in several areas and the extent will depend on whether you’re single or married: In Part 3 of the series Surving as an International Student, we will discuss Friendship and Dating
Friendship: Most people you will come in contact with will be friendly, however international students often remark that while Westerners are “polite”, they can appear to be distant or cold. The best way to strike up a conversation is to talk about the weather since it is seen as an important aspect of the society. This probably sounds strange, but the longer you’re here, the more sense it will make.
Dating: Dating is developing a romantic relationship with someone. Dating is common among students; however, no one can force you to date or go out with him/her against your will. Also, going on a date does not mean consenting to have sex; it just means that you are interested in spending time with the person. Friendships between people of the opposite-sex are common and are not necessarily dating and it is important to respect this boundary where it exists. Rather than assume that you are in a relationship or that one has consented to an act, always ask questions for clarifications. Be also aware that NO means NO. If someone is not interested in having a sexual relationship with you, pursuing it could have serious legal consequences such as sexual harassment or assault charges.
Traditionally men have taken the initiative in asking women on dates, but this is changing as women are asserting their equal status in society. Common dating events include dinners, concerts, movies, and plays. If you want to know someone better, you might ask the person to join you for coffee or a lunch; such meetings can provide the beginning of an enduring friendship without the pressure of being a “date.” It used to be the practice that the one who invited a person on a date would pay for any expenses incurred (such as the dinner check or the ticket price). It is becoming more common for people on a date to “go Dutch,” which means that each person pays for his or her own expenses.
In some cultures, if a woman agrees to spend an evening with a man, it is assumed automatically that ‘it will happen’. In the West, making this assumption and following it up with some premature actions can bring your academic career to a miserable end. You may even have to do some time in jail.
As far as dating and romantic relationships are concerned, if in doubt, the first thing to do is to Ask, the second thing to do is to Ask, and the third again is just Ask.
Enjoy your studies
(These are materials extracted from several student bulletins and academic sources mixed with my personal thoughts. If you would like to continue to the series ‘Surviving as an International Student’, please email firstname.lastname@example.org)