Experiencing the International Flavor of Student Housing

College campuses, like our country, are melting pots of cultures, ideas, personalities, beliefs, and religions. So, it’s no surprise that student housing companies must accommodate a wide variety of students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

To be successful in today’s global society, student housing companies should provide residents with a living experience that takes into account their varying backgrounds. Nowhere is that more evident than when American companies, and universities, start serving students in other countries. This is why Campus Advantage is participating in a study to learn the similarities – and the differences – between higher education in the Middle East and in the United States.

Next month, our vice president for residence life and I will join representatives from other student housing firms and universities – from North America to South Africa – on an international study tour to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The tour is being organized by industry trade associations, including the Association of College and University Housing Officers, the Association of College Unions International, and NASPA.

Having spent several years living, studying, and working overseas, including a stint in the U.S. Peace Corps, I’m looking forward to spending time with friends and colleagues learning about Middle East cultures. 

In my travels, I am constantly amazed at how similar people are no matter where you go. We value many of the same things – friends, family, a place to call “home.” The challenge to those of us in student housing is how to provide that home in ways that accommodates residents where they are. That’s particularly important when operating in another country that frequently has different customs, religious practices, food requirements, and social protocols than we are used to in the United States. 

As part of our visit, we will have the opportunity to meet with administrators of universities in the region. For many of these schools, catering to students from different cultures is just part of their typical day. Closer to home, that same knowledge can be used to help us better serve international students who come to the U.S. to study.

Building that mutual understanding across cultures is even more important today. Too often, people fear what they don’t understand. Trips like this help build understanding and open the door for collaborations and partnerships that know no national borders.

My experience in the Peace Corps instilled in me a firm belief that our similarities to one another are what make us strong. The challenge to each and every one of us, especially those of us in student housing, is to take time to learn about and experience different cultures and new ideas. Only then can we truly serve each of our students where they live, regardless of where it is they call home.

Mike Peter is the President and CEO of Campus Advantage