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Global Student Friendship Group Sponsors Activities to Welcome ODU International Students

For many students, arriving at Old Dominion University this month will be a daunting experience. It might be their first time away from home, or their first experience living in a new city.

Imagine that transition to ODU occurring from another country, far away, and that you are a student arriving after a long flight at Norfolk International Airport, with a suitcase, dreams and no connection to the community.

These are the individuals that the on-campus organization Global Student Friendship seeks out. Founded a few years ago, GSF has as its goal providing a friendly contact for students new to the United States.

Kurnia Foe, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering at ODU, wants students to feel like they have a friend, even though they may be thousands of miles from their home.

"GSF works closely with ODU to assist new International students. We help with airport pickup, with temporary housing, with giving orientation about life around ODU," Foe said.

"Volunteers from GSF were waiting at the airport gate with their pictures, names and flag of their countries. Their stresses were gone after seeing smiling and friendly faces who welcome them not only as friends but like a family.

"It's amazing. You have students from Thailand, students from Russia, students from Kenya, students from Turkey. But as soon as you start talking about that feeling of being away from home, you feel like you have a friend you can relate to," said Foe, who himself is from Indonesia.

Global Student Friendship is once again organizing a bus tour and luncheon to welcome international students to ODU, on Saturday, Aug. 28. "We want get students to totally understand that they're among friends," Foe said.

The tour includes sightseeing to Downtown Norfolk, a tour inside Norfolk Naval Base, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, and a luncheon at Tabernacle Church of Norfolk.

Throughout the year, GSF also hosts gatherings, often at homes of members of the Tabernacle Church of Norfolk, which has made it part of its mission to help ODU international students.

Foe said Tabernacle volunteers who are serving as guides during the bus tour have been asked to clear their schedule for that entire day.

"It may be that the student wants to see the ocean, or go to a special grocery store to get ingredients so they can do their cooking. The volunteers do a great job helping these newcomers, and they don't forget. Some of the international students still remember who picked them up at the airport the first day they arrived," Foe said.

GSF is also helping students by providing, giving away furniture for international students who are on a tight budget. Most of donations of furniture and many other items come from Tabernacle Church of Norfolk. Some International students also get involved as GSF Delivery Team by giving their helping hands loading, lifting, and carrying furniture. "This community service has been rewarding and wonderful experience for students that we help and student helpers who actively involve," Foe said.

Global Student Friendship is partnering with the school's Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) to serve and assist international students. Foe hopes that GSF will benefit not only International students, but also the university. "We hope small pieces of service that we give to international students here at ODU will help them function well in their life. And then it contributes to their academic and research work. At the end, it will benefit ODU and hopefully it could attract more prospective international students to come to ODU."

On September 3, GSF is also organizing an outing to see a Norfolk Tides baseball game. "This will a new experience for international students, to watch American sports for the first time and enjoy meeting new friends," Foe said.

A Global Family Cookout will also be hosted by GSF, OIR and the president's office, to further help welcome the international students, who increase in numbers every year at ODU.

"As a big family of ODU, we sense a need of a better connection and environment to make our international students to feel at home here."

For more information about the GSF welcome bus tour or any other events, contact Foe at kfoex001@odu.edu.


This article was posted on: August 20, 2010

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