Sep 9, 2008

International student dinner: "Hello" from around the world

by Daniel Martinez

 The Liberty courtyard closely resembled the United Nations on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 5, as the International Student Center (ISC) held its World Wide Welcome gathering.

The World Wide Welcome celebrated the 800-plus international students in Liberty’s student body who represent 75 different countries. Featuring prize drawings, a specialized outdoor buffet and the presence of several dozen national flags, the school used the event to introduce international students to each other and a number of different ministries at and around Liberty, according to ISC Coordinator Debbie Webb.

“I came here (to Liberty) because it’s a Christian school,” said Sui Tin Sund, a second semester freshman from Burma. “I want my studies to have a Christian foundation.”

Despite darkening skies and rain, more than 160 students from around the globe showed up to socialize and to enjoy a unique opportunity at the school.

“I was a translator for the International Mission Board,” said Anderson Santos, a sophomore from Manaus, Brazil. “I mentioned a dream to a co-worker about coming to the United States for higher education, and they mentioned this school.”

“Representatives from the school visited our church,” Stephanie Oluoch, a second- semester freshman from Kenya said. “My mom was in church at that time and she told me about it.”

Throughout the course of the gathering, multinational students tried to guess the number of candy corns in a glass jar and had their country flags painted on their faces. Students performed signature hymns of Kenya, India, Nepal, Canada, South Korea and China and enjoyed food and conversation with friends from other countries.

Despite varied backgrounds, most could find one common characteristic: speaking English.

“Everyone learns it in school,” freshman Dorcas Lam said of her home country of Malaysia.

“I learned English at Logos Christian International School,” said Ehud Seng, a freshman from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “It is about two minutes from my house, and there are about 250 students.” He said students from his school are largely the children of American and Korean missionaries.

Some of the students are required to learn a number of languages. Paul Dakum, a senior from Nigeria, learned three languages in high school – the custom in that country – French, the regional language of Hausa and what he called “Queen’s English."
Santos, the translator, is working on learning his fourth language, French. He already fluently speaks Portugese, English and Spanish.

Another common link several of the international students have with each other is faith in God.

Sui Tin’s father is a pastor in Thailand and after growing up in a Christian school, she sees that the people of Burma are in need. “A lot of people are Buddhist," she said. "It’s a beautiful country, but it’s still developing. It would be a great place where people from Liberty could share the gospel.”

As many students tried to make a new home at Liberty, they held fond reflections of their home countries.

“We have a lot of tourists (in Jordan),” freshman Daniel Al Naimak said. “Maybe it’s the freedom, or the fact that there’s no fighting. Even though we’re surrounded by Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, there’s no war.”

“It (Nigeria) has the friendliest, happiest people in the world,” Dakum said. “(When you are there) you get to really experience Africa; the entertainment, the culture. I would definitely want to visit.”

Other students took time to describe their home countries.

“Very few students from Brazil are from the north, the jungle,” Santos said. “I used to be a tour guide, and I would say I was from ‘The Lungs of the World,’ because in 20 minutes, we would be in the jungle, and you could feel the oxygen. Nature is so dominant out there — so diverse, so big. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”

The World Wide Welcome was designed with the purpose in mind of bringing international students together, and it did just that. Apart from meeting each other, they had opportunities to meet local ministry groups and representatives from student leadership.

Of the gathering’s prizes, which included candy and soda, Webb said the prize most students desired was a phone card. “They dial the number on the back, then they can call their home countries. It is something they really treasure.” Several cards were handed out at the gathering.

Participants stayed in the courtyard to socialize at dusk, even as the rain fell. Webb labeled the World Wide Welcome a success, thanks to the hard work of volunteers and the enthusiasm of the international students who attended the event.


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