Leaders envision a global Kent

Bethany English

New ethnic restaurants, culture days proposed

The impact of international students on the city of Kent is something Michael Awad knows well.

Awad, owner of the Main Street Continental Grill, said his ability to offer students different ethnic foods that no other restaurants in Kent offer is the idea he built his business upon.

The large number of international students and faculty has driven business owners, like Awad, to add a different flavor to the way they do business.

He and four other community leaders told Kent State administrators about their personal interactions with international students at the all-day International Summit yesterday.

Kent city manager Dave Ruller, like Awad, said the diversity of a college town is what attracted him to Kent.

Ruller said he has great hope of fostering a more global feel to the city of Kent. One of his ideas is “International Row,” which he said would be a long stretch of restaurants offering all kinds of ethnic foods.

He added that the city is trying to create a habitat to foster businesses such as Awad’s, and that will add a nice feeling of diversity.

T. David Garcia, associate vice president for enrollment management, suggested a weekend where the city shuts down and blocks a street to let international students set up little booths about their culture. They could have food for other students to sample, and it would be a fun way to spur interaction.

He said Ohio University does this exact event, and he thought it would be beneficial to Kent State students and the community.

Ruller agreed with Garcia that this was an interesting idea, one that he said has never been really thought of before.

John Ryan, president of the Kent area’s Huntington banks, said international students face the same problems as domestic students who begin to handle their money on their own, such as over drafting accounts.

Ryan said occasionally language barriers create a problem with international students. To help alleviate this issue, he created a simplified cheat sheet for Kristi Campbell, assistant director for the Office of International Affairs, who then translates it into Chinese.

Portage County Commissioner Chris Smeiles shared his own story about an encounter with international students.

He said when a friend who was very involved with international students called and asked him to host an “American Labor Day picnic,” he happily agreed.

Fifteen Chinese international students came to his house for a day of barbecue, bocce ball and croquet.

Smeiles enjoyed the day so much that he hosted some other activities for the Chinese students.

Though he has had many pleasant experiences with international students, Smeiles said one thing concerned him: the students told him they found Americans to be very friendly, but not very hospitable.

He suggested that families in Kent get more involved with these international students by acting as hosts to them or providing transportation to help them get places they could otherwise not go.

Contact international affairs reporter Bethany English at [email protected].

Goals for Kent State’s international atmosphere by 2020

Encourage all students to study abroad.

Find ways to help fund students who want to study abroad.

Embed more international elements into existing curriculum.

Encourage Kent State to have a larger number of international faculty.

Break down the barrier of students with English as a second language.

Create a buddy system to encourage international student retention.

Introduce short summer camps for international students to get a preview of Kent State.

Information from the International Summit