NEWBERRY — For the 38 international students enrolled at Newberry College, the International Student Organization is a vital source of support, resources and shared experiences.
Created in 2006, the organization was designed to help the college’s international students cope with the daily challenges of studying and living in a different country. It has also provided outreach efforts to help American students better understand other cultures.
For several years, the organization staged several activities, including “international weeks” with games, special activities and lessons, and international dishes in the cafeteria. At one point, the organization even had a house where international students could meet, do laundry, and store their luggage.
“International students could stay there during holidays, vacations and weekends,” said Nádia Campos de Andrade, the student president of the organization in 2010 and 2011, who shared the house with four other female international students.
Andrade said the goal of the International Student Organization is to provide a support system for international students. Many of them arrive in the United States without a support system, and find the transition to a new environment challenging.
“The main goal of the International Student Organization should be to provide the structure necessary for this transition to happen,” Andrade said, adding that the group is also important to the promotion of the College’s academic and athletic programs.
The organization’s new adviser, Professor of Spanish, Dr. Gregory Cole, is helping the group rebuild and grow. Cole said the organization is important to help promote the exchange of culture between international students and non-international students; the exchange, he says, enriches the school environment.
Organization president, Ellie Gleeson said the support members give each other is vital.
“We international students are all in the same boat,” Gleeson says. “We have basically the same concerns and issues. That is why we need to create a big friendship and establish a relationship with one another.”
The International Student Organization is also conducting outreach efforts. During Spring 2013, the group participated in another International Week and held a Fine Arts and Lectures event, during which members from Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, the Netherlands and New Zealand spoke about their countries. Gleeson said she was surprised by the large turnout for the presentation.
This fall, Gleeson says the organization plans to present more events, including another FAL presentation on Oct. 14, cookouts, a tailgating event for Homecoming, and a trivia night in the cafeteria. Her long-term hopes include increasing the number of international students in the organization.
Gleeson said she does not want them to feel it’s an obligation, but rather something that can help them and benefit their future.
“It would be awesome to have an international house, like we had in previous years,” Gleeson said.
Adviser Cole says his primary wish is to see an area on campus devoted to international culture, where the organization could host events and provide some informal language learning lessons.
Although most International Student Organization members are from other countries, there are no strict membership rules and any interested student may join. The organization usually meets once or twice a month, depending on its needs.
The organization will hold its next FAL event at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 in Kohn Lecture Hall.