International Orientation Leaders build global relationships

KJ Hall

One student in particular has learned that in order to accomplish WKU’s initiative of achieving international reach we must not only seek to experience the world ourselves, but also reach within our own student body.

Somerset junior Marie Angeles had the opportunity to serve as one of WKU’s first International Orientation Leaders a few weeks ago. The goal of this program is for American students at WKU to welcome incoming international students and help them integrate with WKU and Bowling Green communities, as well as build relations between domestic and international students.

The International Orientation Program began with a collaboration of ideas from Mary Lou Romero, the international student and scholar advisor, and Scarlette Briones,  WKU graduate student and intern in the International Enrollment Office. Briones was an International Orientation Leader at the University of Evansville where she studied for her undergraduate degree and saw the need for a similar program here.

“We have orientations for freshmen and transfer students, so why not have one for international students,” Briones said.

At the meeting, International Orientation Leaders were responsible for helping facilitate activities and sessions, participate in ice-breakers, perform skits, complete a scavenger hunt, answer questions on a student panel and more.

They were also responsible for leading a group of international students from various countries. Angeles led a group of two students from Korea and three from Japan.

“I became very close to the group I led,” Angeles said.

Since the orientation, Angeles has continued to build relationships with the international students she met. Activities that the students have done include taking  them to get new sim cards at AT&T, shopping at Wal-Mart, doing homework at Spencer’s Coffee and trips to Nashville. Angeles said she wants to make sure her international friends have the opportunity to make the most of their time here at WKU.

Angeles has also been able to experience their home cultures right here in Bowling Green by having dinner parties where they cooked authentic Korean and Japanese cuisine together.

The language barriers and cultural differences can make transitioning to life in the U.S. difficult Angeles said. Angeles has been able to help the international students with their English, and in turn, they are teaching her some Korean and Japanese.

“I think hanging out or getting to know American students is more helpful to enhance speaking skills rather than just taking classes,” said Eunyoung “Hayley” Choi, a student from South Korea studying English Language and Literature. “She [Marie] has helped me a lot. I really thank her,” Choi said.

Angeles had the opportunity to study at the ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany last spring. There, Angeles had a “buddy” to show her around and answer any questions, and was able to participate in events for international students throughout the semester.

“This is one of the reasons why I’m getting so involved with international students,” Angeles said. “I want to make them feel as welcomed here as I did when I was studying abroad in Germany. Nothing is more assuring than having someone to help you.”

From her own study abroad experience, Angeles has realized the vitality of meeting locals from the country and university you are studying at. Angeles wants to be that friend and mentor for students coming to WKU. Angeles said there is nothing like connecting with someone over universal interests and traveling abroad.

“It’s a beautiful thing when you get people from two different backgrounds and you find there are similarities,” Briones said. “You learn so much and a lot of compassion can come from that friendship, as well as breaking down stereotypes.”