Are international students integrated well in Cambridge?

Charles Bonfils-Duclos 26 November 2013

With just over 10% of undergraduates being internationals, the question is worth asking. Some of us may have been in that situation, asking for the origins of a friend or someone we barely know and being told that they are internationals because one of their parents is not English, for instance. So… international or not? Well, no.

We take it as a given that all Cambridge students should speak English—and I think we are right—but that is not where the difference lies between an international student and a British student. Rather, we should focus on English as the mother tongue language. Many people speak a very reasonable English—which is my case for instance—without having ever been to England before University. It is simply due to the fact that they spent their entire school years in an international school. You got me: fake internationals, stop cheating! It may be better to say you’re French—not because I am one—when going out in a club, but it does not count if you’re not a pure one!

I link language to culture because the first thing that counts is idiomatic expressions, especially when it comes down to have chat with your friends. You may have been somewhere where these expressions were not the same and thus not feel so well mixed. What about then, you may ask, all these internationals sticking together and not speaking English? That’s not cool, I agree.

I think however that there is no problem for international students to get rapidly integrated since all students—except a tiny minority having relatives having been to the University since its foundation—are new to the Cambridge culture. And it starts all again with language. Did you ever realise that townies, gyp room and pennying are probably making sense only here? Did you further realise that all Cambridge students know what it means, internationals or not?

That’s all what counts. Internationals are thus as well integrated as others, and if you doubt it, it may well be that you need further integration!