The pros and cons of having variety in your group of friends

By Lilian Ma, Wellesley College, US
By Lilian Ma, Wellesley College, US |

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When I was applying for my student visa at the American consulate, there was a promotional video about the US and its opportunities that looped in the background. It featured people from all kinds of backgrounds coming together, laughing and joking, seemingly best friends. After attending Li Po Chun United World College, where over 80 nationalities are represented, I knew that this wouldn’t be true when I got to Wellesley. Because even in an environment like a world college, where we are encouraged to seek out and talk to people from different backgrounds, we still stick to what is familiar most of the time.

Sociologists and psychologists have long claimed that humans are a species that join together in groups by their very nature. The term “ethnic nepotism” points toward a biological basis for the phenomenon of people preferring others of the same ethnicity or race.

This topic comes up often in the international community and at my school. In the classroom and for academic work, there are no boundaries. But in terms of forming close relationships, internationals tend to stick to internationals. Take myself for example. After two years at Wellesley, my closest friends are all international students, and the one American? She moved to the US from Singapore when she was 15. And this phenomenon isn’t particular to any nationality or race (be it the host university or the student themselves), it happens across the globe.

But at Li Po Chun, I developed close friendships from different corners of the earth. It was because of this unique environment that I had the opportunity to really interact and get to know these individuals. In any other setting, this would have not happened. Is this inherently “bad”? That the friendships we form are always with ones that we are naturally “comfortable” with and “most similar” to? I think not. As long as we are able to interact and have the curiosity to learn from people from other cultures on a daily basis, it does not matter who the people you go out with at the weekend are.