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Welcoming international students: The gift of hospitality

In 2016, more than one million international students stepped onto U.S. college campuses for a higher education.

They arrived on planes from Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Iran, and everywhere else.

These young men and women are the best minds of their home countries. They are inquisitive, eager, hard-working, and just plain smart.

Looking for a Friend

As international students continue to arrive for their first year of college in the U.S., they are looking for two things, whether they know it or not.

First, they are looking for friends. And second, they are looking for abundant life.

They find both when they connect with InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry.

Their arrival provides us with the wonderful opportunity to welcome these students to our country and the campus.

We give tours of cities, teach and play new sports, go on retreats, invite them home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we have the privilege of learning about their homes and lives too.

But ministering to international students is not only fun; it’s also effective and strategic.

The students usually already know English and are eager to understand U.S. culture, so we can connect with internationals from dozens of countries without having to learn dozens of languages.

Plus, we can much more easily minister to those from closed countries while they’re on U.S. campuses and are more open to learning new things.

While some students will remain in the U.S. after graduation, many of them will use their degrees to become academic, business, and government leaders in their home countries.

And students who’ve been transformed by Jesus during college influence their home countries in other ways as well.

The welcome and experiences international students receive in the U.S., especially during their first few weeks of cultural transition, have a long-term impact on their lives and views of both Christianity and America.

As internationals reach positions of leadership, that impact is multiplied considerably.

A Future World Leader

Here’s one example: on a transatlantic flight some years ago, a businessman chatted with a new student from a closed country. He realized the student had no one to pick him up when his connecting flight arrived in the U.S. As the plane touched down, he thought of a way to help this student.

He called InterVarsity.

A staff member volunteered to meet the student at the airport, offered him a guestroom for the night, drove the young man around town, and showed him stores where he could find the things he needed at good prices.

That young man eventually graduated and later became prime minister of his country.

When the two men reconnected this year through Facebook, the former student (and prime minister) said, “I have never forgotten your generosity and help.”

Remember, there are over a million international students on campuses across the country. Imagine if every one of them experienced kindness like this!

Your Role

You can be part of welcoming international students. Invite them to join you in fun activities, meals, or shopping trips with your friends. This brief video provides several other ideas.

And this article includes tips for building friendships with international students.

May tens of thousands of international students experience the great love of Jesus Christ this year through his people!

Used by permission of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA