Centre College’s mission to develop students into global citizen-leaders is twofold. Not only do 85 percent of students travel abroad but the College also welcomes many international students to campus. In fact, eight percent of this year’s incoming class in comprised of international students.
This summer, the new Centre @ Home program aimed to facilitate a smoother transition for incoming international first-year students. Current international students hosted dinners and discussions in China and Vietnam so that students, and their parents, could learn more about their soon-to-be home in the U.S.
The program was born out of an ad hoc committee formed last spring called the International Student Experience Committee (ISEC), which focuses on improving the academic and social experiences of students joining Centre from across the globe.
“Each summer the majority of our international students go home, and this provides us with our most important resource—people,” International Student Advisor Stephen Swan said.
Volunteers were found to lead the program in their geographic regions as “Centre Ambassadors.” They planned and organized a dinner paid for by the College at a restaurant in a central location, extending Centre’s reach and hospitality across the globe. Current Centre students in the area were also invited, and the students were told they could be candid in their questions and concerns about life in America and Danville as well as academic and social life at Centre. This helps “put a face to Centre College” for first-year international students who likely have never set foot on campus, and just as likely never been in Kentucky, much less the U.S.
Minh Duc “Luke” Nguyen ’18 and Nam Dang ’17 met with several students in Hanoi, Vietnam, as well as their parents, and were able to discuss Centre life in a more personable manner. Zhen “Jack” Zhang ’16 and Di Huang ’18 met with students in Beijing. Borui “Kimmy” Zhang ’16 reached out to students to help organize meetings in the Shanghai, Zhengzhou and Chengdu provinces of China, enlisting the help of Max Addington ’18, Cesar Garcia ’18 and Yichen Zhang ’18, who acted as area leaders and hosts for events.
When Zhang was an incoming international first-year, a few upperclassmen organized a hot pot dinner in Chengdu that he attended.
“I felt really welcomed, and so we did the dinner again the second year and decided to continue it,” he explained. “When Stephen came onboard a few years ago we started working on a lot of new initiatives for international students, and we said, ‘Why don’t we expand this program to several other cities where it could help a lot more students transition into Centre?'”
As an international student, Zhang emphasized that going to school 8,000 miles away can be a huge challenge, but the Centre Ambassadors can help to ease some of the anxieties.
“Even though the students have done a lot of preparation and research, it’s good to get that first-person perspective from someone who currently goes to Centre and has experience living and studying abroad to give you tips on adapting to a new culture and environment as well as what it’s like to study at an American college,” he continued.
Centre College President John A. Roush noted the importance of the program.
“An important goal at Centre is to prepare global citizen-leaders in all walks of life,” Roush said. “To imagine that we start this process early and in creative ways is no surprise—it’s what one might expect of an institution that sets the standard for others in the area of global awareness and education.”
Swan agrees, noting that so far Centre Ambassadors have met about half of the incoming international class at their “home.”
“Hopefully, it will serve to create a more concrete bond between the first-year international students and their new college and classmates,” he said. “I believe that most importantly it tells the first-year international students ‘Centre cares about you—Centre is invested in your success.'”
Pictured above: Centre @ Home hosts a dinner with international first-year students in Hanoi, Vietnam.
by Elise L. Murrell
August 12, 2015