Whether you use a phone app or kick it old school with a paper planner, here are 5 ways you can use your calendar with immigrant friends in mind.
- Find out the major holidays in your immigrant friend’s culture.
Holidays can be one of the strangest times for foreigners in a new culture. Becauase they feel like it should be a holiday (and therefore festive) the day can feel like a letdown because the majority of people are just going along with everyday life. If you write down their special days and call or text to wish them joy, this can go a long way to make the day feel more special.
- Include your immigrant friends in your own holiday plans.
Immigrants (international students in particular) often feel lonely and sad on major holidays in their host culture. While everyone is going to visit their families, immigrants are often left alone with nothing to do and few places to go since most places are closed for the day.
Including immigrant friends in your own holiday plans gives them a wonderful experience and also allows you to have the fun of seeing your traditions through their eyes. (On a personal note, the Thanksgivings and Christmases that are most memorable to me are the ones which involved international students.)
- Write down their (and their children’s) birthdays.
Though Americans tend to make a bigger deal of birthdays more than those in many other cultures, no one has ever been unhappy when I have remembered their birthday. If your friend is on Facebook, then you have a handy reminder built in, but if he or she is not, you’ll need to write it down the old fashioned way. Make sure to get kids’ birthdays too!
- Write down important events or appointments they have coming up.
If your friend is going to defend her thesis on Friday, write it down. That way, you’ll know to ask her early in the week what you can do to support her, text her an encouragement on Thursday, and call on Saturday to see how it went and ask how you can celebrate!
The same goes for appointments regarding asylum status, parent teacher conferences, job interviews…you name it. If it’s important to them and they tell you that it’s coming up, make a practice of writing down the date.
- Write down “follow up dates.”
Related to #4, write in your calendar when you want to follow up with your friend about something they have told you about. This could be an event as mentioned above, or it could be something they told you they’re worried about, something they asked you to pray for them about, or some kind of goal they are trying to work towards.
I have started picking an arbitrary day a few weeks later in my planner and writing down, for example, “Ask Mariam how things are going with her son’s behavior in school,” or “Tell Samir we’ve been praying for him and has he had any resolution with his supervisor.”
Following up is one of the most significant ways you can show you care, and it will open the door to deeper friendship in the future.
How do you plan to use your calendar to better love immigrants this year?
Thank you, wonderful tips. Very practical.
Perfect timing! Thanks so much, Jessica! I did a Facebook post about your blog today, too, I hope that that and the ACMI listserv will generate a few more followers. I also sent it to the Missions Catalyst newsletter person Marti Wade (who was in the class after yours at CIU, evidently.)
One oops – Harnessing, not Harnassing. If you can correct it great, but if not the post is still terrific.
Pat Hatch Refugee and Immigrant Ministry Director Mission to North America (443) 604-5394 firstname.lastname@example.org