Cultural Opportunities Within Campus Borders
For students unable to study abroad, there are opportunities to experience other cultures at the UA, officials said.
Holcombe Hall is the international dorm on campus, and though many of the activities are for residents “they also have a lot of activities that are open for the general population,” said Mandy Prorok, study abroad coordinator.
One such activity that is open to all are presentations by international students about their home countries, as a part of the Holcombe Geography Series.
“Every kid who lives in Holcombe will do a presentation. It will be one person from that country, and they’ll make some authentic food for everyone,” said Grant Bearfield, graduate student and former resident assistant of Holcombe Hall. “We’ve had them from Haiti, Kosovo and Uganda.”
On Feb. 8, a student from China will make a presentation, Prorok said.
Another opportunity, which allows students to get to know international students over a period of time, is the conversation partners program through the Spring International Language Center.
“[Students] just contact us and fill out a conversation partner form, and then we match them with [international] students and meet once or twice a week,” said Alannah Massey, Special Programs coordinator with SILC.
Hannah Gaston, sophomore, was a conversation partner and said she gained a lot through the program.
“You get to learn about culture; you get to learn about food,” Gaston said. “It’s a great way to serve your campus community and help fellow students.”
She also noted ways in which the experience changed and challenged her.
“You have to grow your understanding and compassion when you talk with someone struggling with the language,” Gaston said. “It encouraged me in my language learning. The same way they’re learning English, I’m trying to learn their language.”
Students who are interested in more time-intensive programs could apply to be ambassadors for international orientation or to be a part of a friendship family.
“They use American students for tasks from helping pick up students from the airport when they arrive, taking them shopping at Walmart, to actually being present at the orientation session,” Prorok said.
Applications can be found on the Office of International Students and Scholars website.
“Friendship families are more for students whose families are in Fayetteville and are interested in adopting an international student to invite them to their house for dinner once a month,” Prorok said. “The friendship family program is specifically geared to letting international students see what [American] family life is like.”
Students who have been involved with international students through programs at the UA are grateful for the opportunities and have formed lasting friendships.
“If you take steps, you can easily get involved,” said Kelly Petersen, junior. “I have so many friends that we have a place to stay almost anywhere in the world. If you give them your time, they will give you so much in return.”
“I have lifelong lasting relationships from guys I’ve lived with last year, and I try to Skype with them once a month. They’re genuine friendships,” Bearfield said.