International Friendship Program connects global students with local staff


International Exchange students and faculty assemble for a meet and greet at the Alumni Suite at Kent State University on October 18, 2018. Students and some faculty come from Afghanistan, Iran, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Canada. Kent State hosts this meet and greet once in the fall and once in the spring to get students and faculty assimilated in a casual location and encourages networking and relationship building at these events.

Madison Patterson

Students from around the world shared food, stories and laughter with faculty and staff members Thursday during the International Friendship Meet and Greet.

The event was held in the Alumni Suite i the student Center, For many who attended it was an introduction to their partners in the International Friendship Program run through the Office of International Student Affairs. The program links faculty and staff members with international graduate and undergraduate students and encourages them to make connections they wouldn’t regularly seek out.

“This (event) facilitates a good environment for first meetings,” said Eron Memaj, the director of the office of International Student Affairs.

Being a student in an unfamiliar country can be lonely at times, so Memaj decided to give international students another point of contact and support.

A secondary motivation of the program is to diversify faculty and staff members’ perspectives, Memaj said.

“It makes them think more globally,” Memaj said.

The International Friendship Program was a learning opportunity that couldn’t be found in a classroom for Mahmood Alfardan, an international graduate student from Saudi Arabia. Three days a week he trains as a teacher in Streetsboro and the rest of his week he takes English language classes at Kent State, which he said leaves little room for getting to know locals.

“Through observation, we may learn something new,” Alfardan said. “I might find someone (in the program) to exchange information with.”

Students from the Dominican Republic, China, Indonesia and many more countries participate in the program, which enrolled around 60 pairs this semester. A second meet and greet will be held in the spring.

Contact Madison Patterson at [email protected]