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CHATS and Giggles: Do International and American Students Assimilate?

By Chloé Margulis
Staff Writer

(L): Kristy O’Connell, a junior Marketing major, is an American student (R): Tina Skjonhals, a graduate Healthcare Administration student, is from Norway. Photo by Chloé Margulis
(L): Kristy O’Connell, a junior Marketing major, is an American student (R): Tina Skjonhals, a graduate Healthcare Administration student, is from Norway.
Photo by Chloé Margulis

As the student body of LIU Post grows with international students from all around the globe, the language barrier becomes more defined. However, clubs and events on campus give international and American students the opportunity to assimilate and learn about each other’s culture and customs.

Conversations Helping and Teaching Students (CHATS), has been a club on campus since 2009, uniting American and international students under the familiar umbrella of common language. Its purpose is to help international students adjust to life in America, while both students learn about other cultures. The partnerships forged in this club have led to valued friendships, rich with culturally invigorating experiences.

Treasurer of CHATS and senior Finance major, Abinaya Kunarathnam, believes the Office of Campus Life is doing the best it can to bring together international and American students.

“LIU offers many clubs and activities related to different cultures on campus,” Kunarathnam said. For example, the school has the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, CHATS, Indo-American Club, International Student Union, Korean Student Association, Latin American Students Organization, Taiwanese Student Association, Turkish American Student Association, and the Vikings.

Despite all these clubs, senior Theatre Arts major Doug Robinson doesn’t believe we have enough opportunities to bring together international and American students.

“Most international students have clubs for themselves,” Robinson said, “and with a language barrier, people don’t want to put themselves out there as much.”

The Vikings was his example, a club geared towards Norwegians. American students can join, but Tina Skjonhals, a second semester graduate student in Healthcare Administration, said that very few American students actually attend. Robinson did acknowledge, however, that clubs such as CHATS are working towards assimilating American and international students more.

CHATS pairs international students with American students at the Chapel at the beginning of each semester. Once paired, students spend a minimum of an hour a week together, in addition to attending CHATS events. Junior Marketing major Kristy O’Connell, the President of CHATS, and Kunarathnam noted that Karaoke night, held last semester on Nov 13, is their favorite CHATS event.

“It brings everyone out of their shell,” O’Connell said. “There’s something special about sharing a laugh with others, and I think that’s something that’s intercultural.”

Freshman Computer Science major Xinyu Sirie Zhang said her favorite event was the Friendship Night, also held in the beginning of fall semester, in which everyone in CHATS got to know each other through games. Second semester MBA student Qingmiao Wang agreed with

Zhang. “International students feel homesick and bored since we don’t know anyone in America,” Qingmiao said. “But this party and CHATS in general allows us to make more friends and feel comfortable here.”

Freshman Film major Yuxin Tao said CHATS helped to get rid of her nerves. “It is a good chance to communicate with people, and learn about other cultures.”

O’Connell is paired with Skjonhals from Norway. “Tina and I clicked right away,” she said. They were able to develop a friendship from learning about the world, other cultures, languages, and each other’s lives. Of all the wonderful and fun things O’Connell and Skjonhals do, O’Connell enjoys their long car rides together. Skjonhals explained, on the other hand, that her favorite was going to The Witches Brew, a café that reminded her a lot of back home. O’Connell also had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Sweden during the summer because of the friendship she developed with her Swedish partner last year. “I want people to see the amazing things that this club does. Everyone should have a CHATS partner — if you can make a difference in someone’s life, then why not?” O’Connell said.

Aside from CHATS, there are plenty of opportunities at LIU Post for American and International students to integrate. To find out more about the club, you can follow CHATS on Facebook and Instagram at LIU Post Chats Club. CHATS meets every Monday during common hour in Hillwood room 106.

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