For this International Education Week (IEW), we’re focusing on simple acts of kindness that you can take in your home, school, and community. You don’t have to spend lots of money or make a grand gesture to have an impact. In fact, small and open-hearted deeds can often be the most meaningful.
Remember to fit these small acts of kindness to the cultural norms and contexts of your present community. If you’re currently living abroad, consider how different communication styles or social values might change the recipient’s interpretation of your small act of kindness.
Prepare a meal for a friend or loved one
Cooking for a loved one is a great way to show your appreciation and share your culture. Often, food is a wonderful expression of affection, so why not take some time and make something delicious for someone else? It’s one of the simplest ways you can take care of someone, and a great way to literally see, smell, and taste culture.
Creating a thank you card for a mentor or teacher
Is there a person in your life who has meaningfully guided you through a tough time, or simply served as a wise source of advice? Sitting down to write a letter and express your gratitude is thoughtful, personal, and so appreciated! If you’re an artist, get creative with it. As long as your words or artwork is from the heart and made by you, it will likely be cherished.
Teach a little lesson
Is there something you’re good at that you could teach a peer or family member? Maybe it’s soccer, photography, or the basics of a new language! Teaching a friend or host sibling something new is a great way to bond and connect.
Just don’t forget to offer your knowledge or expertise in sensitive way. For example, in more collectivist cultures, directly offering a lesson in a group setting, especially to someone older or “more senior” than you are, may be too awkward; but, a private, subtle suggestion might let them “save face” and accept your tutorial.
Give a heartfelt compliment
We all appreciate a kind word, but we don’t always express them aloud (or loudly enough)! Let a friend, teacher, parent, or sibling know how funny, caring, or smart they are. Try to be specific and generous in your compliment! If that amount of openness is not the cultural norm, find an indirect way to imply that you think they’re great. For instance, an indirect way to compliment someone’s cooking may be to eat everything on your plate, rather than directly commenting on the deliciousness of a meal!
Help a new classmate, peer, or coworker get oriented in a new place
Is there a new student, coworker, or peer in your community? Maybe they could use some help navigating their new environment or perhaps they could use a friend to walk with them to the next class or meeting. Whether you’ve studied abroad or not, we all can understand the embarrassment and frustration of getting lost or not knowing the lingo at first. If you notice someone struggling like this, why not lend a hand? Your approach should be informed by their culture and your shared setting, but most of the time people will appreciate a little guidance to familiarize themselves with new surroundings and ways of doing things.
Such a small act that makes an enormous difference. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen without judgment. If someone close to you wants to talk, or maybe just watch a movie, take time out of your day to be present and really listen if they’re open to talking. Listening is a skill that takes practice, but its rewards are priceless.
While this may not seem like a simple act, there are many short-term and meaningful options for volunteering–for as little as one day! Whether it’s working at a local animal shelter, spending time with the elderly at a nursing home, or planting at your community garden, you can make a big difference and feel fulfilled doing it.
People will never forget how you made them feel, so for this IEW, engage in small acts of kindness both on this list and beyond. You may be surprised how the smallest actions create the biggest impacts. Don’t forget to visit our Student Life Page to find more fun ways to get involved this IEW!