IVE creates international friendships on campus


Trevor Setterlin, a sophomore criminal justice major and Bitrus Audu, a sophomore business major participating in ROTC socialized in Audu’s room. Setterlin is from Columbus, Ohio while Audu is from Nigeria. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Jenna Hedman

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Think back to when you were a new student on campus. Now, imagine that along with not knowing anyone, you also don’t know the language everyone is speaking.

Each year, new international students face this challenge. For them, it’s a new school, a new language and a new culture.

This year, Kent State offered a new living community called the International Village Experience. It pairs international and domestic students together as roommates in Van Campen Hall and on the second floor of Beall Hall.

Bitrus Audu is a pre-business management major from Nigeria and this year, he is living with Trevor Setterlin, a justice studies major from Columbus. Both Bitrus and Trevor are sophomores. Trevor lived with an international student last year, but is Bitrus’ first American roommate.

Audu said the best part about living with an American is that it helps him understand American culture better. He said it has also helped motivate him to try new things like omelets made of eggs poured from a carton. A sight that initially confused Audu in the breakfast line one morning.

“If he (Setterlin) hadn’t been with me, I would have found something else to eat,” Audu said. “Living with Trevor helped me understand the culture and the way of life here.”

But, IVE is more than just roommates. It also offers programs that are open to the entire campus.

Laura Forchione is the resident hall director for Beal, McDowell and Van Campen. She was part of the planning committee last year to develop IVE. She said the committee wanted to make a community that would help international students feel that they really belong here, and introduce Kent State students to other cultures.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming events include a Halloween event, where students will learn about the holiday as well as what the fall season means to Americans. There will also be a Thanksgiving program, a winter holiday program and a program called “Sex in the Dark” which will address the stigmas about sex across the world.

Students who are interested in IVE can visit the International Village Experience at Kent State University Facebook page.

Forchione said she works with her resident assistants to put on events that help students learn about the lives and customs of international students. She said that, so far, there has been great turnout to the events. Taste of the World had more than 200 people in attendance and the tie-dye night had more than 180.

Alyssa Jeric is a senior nursing major and a resident assistant in McDowell. She said she’s been very involved with IVE.

“The best thing is watching the international students come out of their shells,” she said. “They come with barely anything and are shy and, for the most part, can’t even call home. IVE helps them enjoy being here and makes them feel welcome.”

Kunmi Yi is a sophomore exchange student from South Korea. She lives in Beall and her roommate is from Japan. She is very involved in IVE and says the program has helped her become more comfortable with the people she meets at Kent.

“IVE helps people understand each other’s cultures,” Yi said. “It teaches us about each other so we are more comfortable.”

She said the best part about being involved in IVE is meeting new people.

Facts about international

students on campus

  • There are 1,861 international students at Kent State this year.
  • 283 international students live on campus.
  • The IVE residence halls (Beall has 26 and Van Campen has 21) house the second and third largest population of international students. Prentice has the most with 53.
  • 16 percent of the international students on campus live in the IVE residence halls.
  • International students who live on campus represent 34 different countries.

“I’ve gone to the tie-dye event and Taste of the World,” she said. “When I go to IVE events I meet a lot of people from America and all over the world.”

Yi said that being around American students during the IVE programs has helped her understand American culture more, but she also said that American students could really benefit from coming to IVE programs.

She said some American students still say mean things to her. Students on the streets have yelled at her and some of her international friends and some have even made racist comments to her face.

“International students might show low understanding of language in expressing thoughts, but we do know what people say to our face,” Yi said. “I think some students think that we don’t understand what they are saying when they decide to say mean things.”

“Kent is all about diversity, right?” Yi said. “Americans need to understand us more. IVE helps Americans learn about different cultures. If one person learns something and then shares their experiences, more people will understand us.”

Contact Jenna Hedman at [email protected].