Regardless, there's this one factoid: there is a subset of people that I don't know at all, not because I am too old in the program, but because this subset of people never really integrated into the whole set of students. I am talking about the subset of people that nicely fall under the label of international students.
See, in my department, the international students aren't really a varied bunch. There's one from the United Kingdom, one from Germany, one from the Philippines (that's me), there used to be one from Argentina and one from Mexico, oh, and there's one Indian. The rest are the East Asian international students. There are plenty of students from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China. In fact, I think international students make up about 50 percent of the graduate student population in my department.
However, the sad thing is that the East Asian international students are nowhere to be seen. Whenever there is a Happy Hour, they're not there. Whenever there's a graduate student meeting, chances are they are not there. They just show up for classes, and disappear in their little cliques. Yes, I admit that the American students can be cliquish too, but they (we) definitely like to integrate with them more.
Haha, let me do a little digression here. I guess it's obvious by now which camp I belong to. I might be from the Philippines but I have plenty of friends that are American. This is not to say however that I have no friends who are international students: I do, I just have friends from both camps.
Anyway, I guess what I find bizarre is this groupthink that I sort of see with the international students. They come all the way to the United States in order to study, they travel halfway around the world to attend school, and yet when they go here, all the friends that they make are fellow students who come from their own country. Their English doesn't improve, their experience is limited to interacting with their own countrymen, and in the end, it just seems like they went to school in their own country as well. What's the point if that would be the case? It feels so similar to this bizarre habit I observe with Japanese tourists: they go and visit a foreign place, and yet they still eat in a Japanese restaurant.
Perhaps it's just that I grew up in a very international setting that I find socializing with the locals rather easy. Perhaps I am the exception, and that for the most part, it's very hard for people to break the wall. It's a pitiful situation, but perhaps that's the reality of things.