New learning community available in fall for international and American students

Caitlin Restelli

The Office of International Affairs is collaborating with Residence Services to bring students from different cultures together by helping international and domestic students interact more. A new program called the International Village Experience will launch in fall 2011.

“It’s an opportunity where people can expand their views of culture,” said David Di Maria, director of international students. “I think it can be a transformative experience for students.”

IVE is a learning community designed to allow students who want to share their culture and background to other students from across the globe. An international student will be paired with a domestic student to room together.

First-year students will be housed in Van Campen Hall, and upperclassmen will be housed on the second floor of Beall Hall.

“It’s a great place to start, but we want (IVE) to be bigger than that,” said Joel Bynum, member of the planning committee.

If students are interested, they should request the residence hall that correlates with what year they are in at Kent. They can then request to be a part of the IVE learning community.

Bynum said the program is an immersive experience with students from multiple cultures and backgrounds.

The program is still in the planning stages, but the committee is thinking of activities and leadership roles for the students to interact.

The planning committee recently devised a leadership role called the ambassador. Students who hold this role will have to meet a certain GPA requirement, and they must show an interest in being part of the community. The ambassadors will be international and American students.

“Ambassadors will be expected to be a positive role model influence on the community,” Bynum said. “We want American students to reach out to international students, and we also want international students to reach out to American students.”

Some ideas to help interaction in the halls include field trips to the Amish country, West Side Market in Cleveland and HOME Markets in Acorn Alley.

The community will invite international students to showcase some of their culture to students living in the community, Bynum said. It will also allow American students to show their ways of life.

“It’s one thing to learn about it in the classroom, which is very good, or to read about it in a book,” Di Maria said. “It’s another thing if you’re living in it every day.”

Resident assistants will be chosen from a pool of RA applications. Bynum said they look for students who have an interest in studying abroad, have a language major or can bring something additional to the community.

Once RAs are selected, they will go through special training, which Di Maria said is more of an intercultural focus on what culture is.

The training will help RAs understand if a roommate conflict is because of personality or cultural differences. It will also help raise sensitivity to international students’ ways of life.

Bynum said this program would help international students have a better transition experience into the United States.

“It is a relatively inexpensive way (for domestic students) to get some firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to interact with students or people from other countries and develop those sensibilities that come along with that,” Bynum said.

Di Maria said he was saddened by a conversation with an international student who had been at Kent State for four years and returned home after graduation.

“They tell me they’ve never been inside an American home; they don’t have any American friends,” Di Maria said. “I think that means in the U.S. we’re not doing a very good job hosting our visitors from all over the world. I’m hoping we can change some of that.”

Di Maria said he hopes this program will help international students make American friends and gain friendship that goes beyond the university.

“It’s a big world, and it’s a lot of fun to get to know about it, but I think a lot of people just live in one little bubble,” Di Maria said. “You’re alive for so long, so go ahead and get to know about the world and enjoy it.”

Contact Caitlin Restelli at [email protected].