BG residents urged to engage with international students

Friendship Program matches locals with international students” (Community Opinion, August 9, 2017) was an uplifting article to read at a time when so much negativity dominates national news. As a fairly new BG resident (three years in November), I am so impressed by the volunteer spirit in this great, small city. I would encourage all to participate in the International Friendship Program so we can show these students that not all Americans are hateful. My 20+ years of living abroad has shown me that many foreigners form their opinions of the USA and Americans from what they see in movies and in the news.

In addition to the approximately 800 International students starting their undergraduate or graduate programs at BGSU this year, there is another 50 or so International students who come about 3 to 12 months prior to matriculation in order to work on their English here. These students come to the official Intensive English Program on campus: ELS Language Centers. Because of their weaker English skills, we are actively seeking volunteers to act as Conversation Partners by coming to classes once a month to speak to these students for about 45 minutes.

Students at ELS Language Centers/Bowling Green also face obstacles with housing. With the closure of the Harshman Quadrangle, there aren’t any available dorm rooms for these students. All that is officially left is our Homestay Program. Although it is a much more serious involvement to house an international student for a couple of months or even a year, the rewards are much greater. First of all, there is financial compensation. Secondly, many families and international students form a deep bond, often staying in touch for years after their student has returned home. Some even visit each other from time to time, such as for weddings and other happy occasions.

Every November, college campuses across the USA celebrate International Week. The BGSU office of International Programs and Partnerships has generously invited us to participate by allowing ELS students to give presentations about their countries and culture. Tentatively set for Friday, November 17, 2017 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm in room 228 of the Bowen Thompson Student Union, our third annual Passport to Diversity event is a come-as-you-please affair with prize incentives for participants who get all of the stamps in their “passports.” This event is free and open to all.

For additional details about the Conversation Partners & Passport to Diversity opportunities, please contact Nelson Einwaechter at 419-372-4435 or bgn@els.edu. For more information about our Homestay Program, contact Chris Boggs at 419-308-9694 or elshomestayfamilies@gmail.com. You can also find out more about ELS Language Centers at www.els.edu.

In closing, I would like to encourage all to consider participating in one or many of the opportunities I have described with the International Friendship Program or ELS Language Centers. I also would like to add a quick plug for another great organization in town: Global Connections. It’s a group of volunteers who help all BG internationals in many different ways. For more information on them, please go to http://globalconnectionsbg.org/.

 

Nelson Einwaechter

Center Director

ELS Language Centers/Bowling Green

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