The Arka Tech

Friends needed for Global Connect

One issue has plagued an international program since its establishment on campus ten years ago. Lack of American students.

Global Connect, a program that pairs an international student and an American student for a semester, aims to bridge the gap between cultures on campus through friendship and mentoring.

Students are paired, meet up once a week for a minimum of one hour and ask questions about each other’s culture. Lindsey Ingmire, international student adviser and head of the program, said Global Connect is more of a friendship service than anything.

Ingmire said that though the program benefits both partners, American students are failing to sign up.

Forty-eight international and American students are paired, but 40 international students are still waiting for a partner.

With other responsibilities and tasks, Ingmire said she does not get to spend much time promoting the program so that all students are aware. She said this could be the main reason for the shortage of American students.

Ingmire, who graduated from Tech in 2007 with a degree in Spanish, said she knew nothing about the program while she attended.

“The same old problem persisted as it does now,” Ingmire said. “Even as a language major, which you would think would be the primary target of someone wanting to meet someone from a different culture, I didn’t have any clue.”

On the International and Multicultural Student Services Office website, the Global Connect flyer reads, “Enrich your college experience by mentoring an international student.”

Ingmire said that another reason American students aren’t signing up could be that “mentoring” sounds like a large time commitment; many students are intimidated by the task.

The only requirement is that partners meet up for an hour per week, though Ingmire said she does not monitor the allotted time.

Thamid Shantanu, junior sociology major from Bangladesh, participated in Global Connect during his freshman year. He said that he thinks Americans are afraid of beingtunfamiliar with other cultures and are afraid to hurt their partners by being politically incorrect.

“At the end of the day, most students forget that the goal of the program is to bridge the gap between American and international students, and the best way to do that is to make a friendship,” Shantanu said. “So even if those initial interactions are awkward and slow, the rewards you gain from the program far outweigh those cons.”

International students are hesitant as well, Ingmire said.

Thamer Alanazi, sophomore health information management major from Saudi Arabia, has been waiting for a partner since the beginning of the semester.
“I’m shy; I think it’s my problem,” Alanazi said. “People here are nice, but they do not come to you to make friends; you have to go to them.”

Because of the cultural and language barriers, Alanazi said he can be hesitant to talk to American students.

But once these barriers are overcome, the program helps both partners grow, Ingmire said.

Friendships that are made in the program can become lifelong.

Shantanu said that the friendship he made with his partner is one of the best connections he has made at Tech.

Taylor Summerville, American student and president of International Student Organization, has had two partners in the past. She said she encourages American students to join Global Connect.

“I think making friends with people who have a different way of life than you is one of the best things you can do to grow as a person,” Summerville said.

For more information, visit https://www.atu.edu/imsso/globalconnect.php or contact Lindsey Ingmire at lingmire@atu.edu.