A chance to breach the cultural borders at Eastern

We’ve all experienced it. The push for social action at Eastern is unavoidable. STV, Justice, INST 150 and the general mood of our school pushes students to get out and do something. Many of us love this aspect and may have come to Eastern for this very reason.

But there’s a glitch. This socially conscious school costs about $30,000 per year which means many people need to have part-time jobs while they attend school. Add in classes, career-conscious club involvement and time for recreation, and you come up with a situation where most people don’t have a lot of time for social action.

I’ve witnessed this in my own life. No matter how much I learn about sex trafficking, homelessness and the Darfur crisis, there will still only be 24 hours in the day and 7 days in the week. I can’t fix these problems. But I can do something meaningful with my time.

There is a practical way to serve people who need help right here on Eastern’s campus. The opportunity is available on our campus through ICE: International Cultural Experience. It is a club that aides Eastern’s international students in adjusting to life in America and learning spoken English.

Before this program came along this semester, many of Eastern’s international students had a lot of trouble adjusting to our school. Among the international students, the Korean nurses had experienced an especially hard time. English is a very difficult language to learn.

It’s hard for me to imagine leaving my friends and family behind to study in another country for two years. So it comes as no surprise that the nurses tended to only spend time with other nurses, which resulted in weak language skills and few cross-cultural friendships.

This situation presents an enormous problem, because these students plan to become nurses in the U.S., where they will need to speak English fluently and interact with largely American patients. Cross-cultural friendships are essential to the immersion process. It doesn’t work if you don’t have friends to gently correct and steer you as you learn a language.

I don’t want to be too harsh, because I didn’t start getting to know the nurses until the end of my second semester at Eastern, but this situation seems to me like a large failure on the part of Eastern.

I applaud the work that’s been done by the director of international students and by the staff of the nursing program. I would never want to belittle their efforts. Instead, I suppose I am directing my comments toward Eastern’s student body, myself included. Might we be missing out on an opportunity here? It’s hard to justify having the motto “The Whole Gospel for the Whole World” when we have a group of neglected international students on campus.

This situation not only represents a failure on Eastern’s part, it also represents an enormous opportunity lost. These students have rich stories and traditions to share with the Eastern community, but we have often been unwilling or too busy to listen. There is a deep reservoir of cultural knowledge and wisdom in these people that I think we miss out on at Eastern.

Over the past semester, ICE has worked to end this problem, and I think we’ve had some great success. But the problem still exists. Rather, the opportunity still exists. The opportunity to serve Christ through serving others is still available.

What is more, this service is deeply needed for the sake of all Eastern students, whether they are international or traditional. There is much to be learned for both parties. So whether its getting involved in ICE, or just taking time to get to know these students on your own, I would encourage Eastern students, faculty and staff to get to know these wonderful people.

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