Sharing the aloha
One program UH Hilo has successfully employed to make
international students feel welcome in the local community
and understand the very Hawai’ian concept of aloha
– which encompasses ideas such as love and compassion –
is a scheme connecting students with local families.
“The students don’t live with their hosts, but get together
periodically. Often they develop deep relationships and
become lifelong friends,” Mellon recounts, mentioning a
local family that has recently travelled to Korea for a former
“It’s a two-way cultural exchange in which both the lives
of students and their host families are enriched. It’s success
is thanks to the willingness of local families to share their
aloha with international students.”
Beisser agrees: “The number one concern of international
students is making friends with US students,” he says.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge, especially in campuses like
ours where local students usually come in with their friend-ship
Social events, clubs and buddy programs are employed
across the board to ensure that connections do happen
and that domestic students also get the benefit of the
internationalisation on their campus.
But the process is not linear, and needs vary according to
the students’ context and age.
One group of students with very specific needs are those
who arrive with a family; many students make the journey
overseas with a partner and often young children too.
ISSUE #24 | THE PIE REVIEW | 51
Some international students are at first taken aback
by how quiet St John, Newfoundland and Labrador’s
capital, can be on Sunday mornings,
rhetoric filtering through from news and political events.
“It’s an area that’s unspoken but all US schools are thinking
about it all the time,” he says. “Keeping on that message that
‘you are welcome here’.”
Intercultural competence is an area that deserves and
needs ongoing focus, especially in very diverse campuses
and societies, Jim Mellon at the University of Hawai’i at
“Having a lot of people from different backgrounds living
and studying together doesn’t automatically create mutual
respect and understanding. Sometimes, the opposite can
happen, and people’s stereotypes are strengthened,” he says.
“We need to do more to develop intercultural competence
among our students in structured ways – and not just as-sume
it will magically happen.”
“We need to do
more in structured ways
and not just assume
will magically happen