So you have met "SEA" students. What should you do next?
First, search for the ”5 Things to Know About Southeast Asians” article and read it. Jonathan Tran shares some helpful information about SEA students.
Next, follow up!
Third, as you move forward, two things to always keep in mind are FOOD and RELATIONSHIP. Conversations are just easier around food, and they love food. Students might show up because they are looking for community or curious about faith. If you don’t connect with them, they may not return even if they know they need the community.
Here are some tips as you meet SEA students:
- Follow up. Go out of your way to connect with them. If possible, eat together. Be curious and ask thoughtful questions about them, but don’t make assumptions. Southeast Asia is very diverse.
- Take your hospitality to the next level. Greet students when they come to your events. If your event includes food, lead them to the food and introduce them to other people to help them feel included and welcome. Unless they are within their ethnic group, Southeast Asians may feel like a minority in most spaces, including Asian American and larger SEA gatherings.
- Follow up AGAIN. Don’t expect students to keep coming around just because they had a good time at their first event. They will recognize your authenticity when you continue to build a relationship with them. Continue to look for opportunities to do it, and don’t stop after a few weeks.
- Get in the habit of sharing food. Can you tell that food is important? Whenever it is appropriate, sharing food/snacks is an excellent way to build a relationship. It is ok if they decline. Offering food is a generous and kind gesture that could help with relationship building by eliminating barriers. If they offer to share some food with you, accept it if you’re able.
- Eat SEA food. Not seafood, but SEA food. Although, sometimes it is seafood. You know what I mean. If there is an opportunity, they would appreciate it when you are willing to try their food: pho, papaya salad, curry, lamb, etc. BONUS TIP: Don't be afraid of the fish sauce. It makes everything taste good!
I hope you are hungry! When SEA students show up and decide they want to keep participating, they will most likely bring people with them. You will just be eating more food again!