By Kate Emory, International Student Services Coordinator, and Sylvia Shipp, ELP Lecturer
It has been a lively semester with lots of fun events for our international students. Office of International Affairs (OIA) kicked off the spring semester by hosting a Global Mixer, a standing-room-only social event rich with games and food, in the Carriage House. Following this event was our fun-filled International Karaoke Night, where you can expect to hear students sing songs in many different languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, German, French, and Spanish.
In March, students from the Spanish language classes, offered a night of Salsa and Bachata dance lessons. Attendees learned basic Salsa steps, individually and with partners, and later learned Bachata moves. “Salsa” and “Bachata” are genres of music that incorporate many different influences from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Dance is a popular way to interact with the music.
At the beginning of April, OIA also hosted the first International Trivia Night. Students tested their global knowledge in a Jeopardy!-like quiz. Teams registered in advance, and there were prizes for first, second, and third places. Trivia included questions about international food, world history, and “Where’s Carson?”.
The English Language Program (ELP) chose the Carnegie Science Center for the OIA/ELP field trip this semester. Many of our Japanese students and ELP students joined us on the hands-on fun. We watched “Dream Big,” an inspiring documentary about the wonder of design at the Omnimax Theater. As usual, we held our bittersweet end-of-term party in mid-February for our Japanese exchange students, who would soon return to their home schools: Kobe College and Kyoto Women’s University, after a 6-month program in English and American culture. The spread was fantastic—Asian & American fare specially prepared for our students. We also held an end-of-term party after final exams, treating the students to pizza and cake. Several students received certificates and prizes in recognition of their efforts.
ELP students had other special days, too. Aside from the usual social activities such as our Conversation Partner Program that many students enjoy participating in, students also went on class field trips to places such as the Chatham Eden Hall and Eastside campuses, the Carnegie Art Museum, University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms, and Millie’s Ice Cream in Shadyside. A special group called the International Student Ambassadors helped to create a clever video to showcase the beauty of Chatham University, welcoming other international students who are considering studying abroad.
Aside from the formally hosted activities, many ELP students also took part in the indoor intramural sports such as soccer, which is held in our state-of-the-art gym.
By Linh Phung, ELP and Pittsburgh Pathways Director
One core mission of Chatham University is to promote “global understanding” of “world-ready” students. Fulfilling the mission requires the work of all departments, offices, and stakeholders from the University. The Office of International Affairs (OIA) has made various contributions to the mission. Over the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters, the Office served over 130 international students from nearly 30 countries through English language instruction, intercultural programming, ongoing orientation, immigration advising, academic advising, and other services. While conversations around international students sometimes heavily focus on the students’ ability to adjust to the new environment and culture, let us flip the coin and view the presence of international students as an asset to those who come into contact with them.
Interacting with international students helps to develop intercultural communication skills. The fact that international students speak English as an additional language provides their interlocutors the opportunity to use communications strategies, such as attentive listening, confirmation checks, comprehension checks, paraphrasing, circumlocution, and so on. These strategies will be useful for other intercultural interactions where cultural differences extend beyond differences in nationalities and languages to include differences in lived experiences, identities, social memberships, and so on. Teaching international students challenges instructors to implement culturally relevant pedagogies to maximize learning opportunities for all. Usually, instructional strategies that work for international students work for all. For example, errors that international students make may be obvious and even annoying, but making discursive practices in a particular field explicit can be empowering to both international and domestic students who are still learning to “talk the talk.”
Dialogue with international students has a tremendous potential to deepen understanding of different lived experiences and the consequences of those differences. I recently participated in the Intergroup Dialogue training workshop delivered by colleagues from the University of Michigan. I was fascinated by how much I learned from other participants by asking curious questions and listening to others to understand their experiences (i.e., listening to understand, not listening to respond). I realized how different my experiences growing up and studying in Vietnam were while listening to my interlocutors talk about their favorite holiday, their mom’s home remedy to treat cold, or artifacts in their cultural box that told their life stories. I felt as if my journey to learn about the U.S. culture and people around me just started then. It made me think about how to engage in and facilitate more dialogue, especially dialogue about critical issues, among international and domestic students to surface differences and foster better understanding, a first step in contributing to a more equitable world.
In short, international students are not merely “legal aliens,” nonnative English speakers, or the “other,” who need support and accommodation for success (which is, of course, also important). They also bring differences and resources that can be viewed as assets to the University community.
Office of International Affairs, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, email@example.com, www.chatham.edu/academics/international