|Times of prayer are foundational components of the Rafiki House's weekly Bible study, a time of cross-cultural study and discussion of God's Word. During these times of fellowship, each participant is invited to worship in whatever language or style is most meaningful to him or hear. Above: Eunice Aryee '06 (foreground) leads a time of prayer for those gathered at the Bible study.
Messiah offers a vast array of programs to enhance the educational experience of international students. The student-led International Student Association/Mu Kappa (ISA/MK), of which Agaba has been an active member, aids international students as well as missionary kids in making cultural adjustments by providing an ongoing network of encouragement, fellowship, and understanding.
Minoska (Gonzalez) Villegas ’95, director
of international student programs at the College, says, “It doesn’t matter where you are from; there’s something about knowing that someone else is going through the same thing that gives you comfort.” An alumna who immigrated to the U.S. shortly before coming to Messiah, Minoska remembers, “If it wasn’t for close-knit relationships among [fellow international students] and those who had a heart for minority students, my experience would have been totally different.”
These close-knit relationships are nurtured from the moment the students arrive on campus. Before Welcome Week begins for the entire first-year class, incoming international students are given a weeklong orientation that includes a plethora of North American survival tips—everything from applying for a social security card to shopping advice during a tour of a local grocery store.
And in turn, through its full slate of campus events and activities, ISA/MK shares the rich cultural heritages of its members with the entire Messiah College community. Each year, the student body is invited to attend the International Student Banquet, a feast of cultures, friends, and food, as students prepare dishes from their respective countries and don traditional attire for the celebration.
As Messiah’s campus community becomes more and more familiar with other cultures, and as the international student population continues to grow, new international student organizations are taking root. Groups like the Asian Student Association, the African Student Union, the Caribbean Student Association, and La Alianza Latina provide support for students from diverse backgrounds and promote awareness of world cultures and issues through campuswide
But sometimes, all it takes is rubbing shoulders with others to enrich and expand worldviews. Although many North Americans, especially college students, wrestle theoretically with issues like the genocide in Rwanda and the AIDS epidemic in Southeast Asia, Braedan Bain ’06, a student from Nassau, the Bahamas, reflects that “it becomes a personal issue when it affects a fellow student, as opposed to being a world issue.”
Through her friendship with Indian alumna Janice VanHaeltran ’05, junior Heather Hummel has gained a deep appreciation for students from other cultures. “I am impressed by inter-national students’ courage to go to college in a different country, away from their family and culture,” says Heather, a biology major from Red Lion, Pa. Now gathering her own courage, and willing to stretch her own cultural understandings and boundaries, Heather has applied to spend an upcoming semester in New Zealand.
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