Mar 232008
 
Authors: Roy Mongelli

Believe it or not, CSU is a microcosm of the world that lies in the area bounded by College, Shields, Laurel and Lake.

Within this world are folks from literally all points of the globe. There are over 1,400 international students, scholars, professors, spouses and families representing more than 100 countries.

There is no need to venture even outside the campus to experience cultures that some people travel far and wide to touch and many never see. While busy with their daily routines, most international students have an insatiable thirst for experiencing and learning the culture and ways of our country while sharing their own.

Fort Collins International Center, the official volunteer arm of the Office of International Programs, has existed since 1967 to help bridge the gap between those visitors in our land and residents of the local community. There are several formal programs designed to connect the two communities while also providing opportunities for students of different nationalities to become better acquainted.

International Friends matches international students and scholars with local families or singles so that they may share in each other’s lives and gain mutual enrichment along the way. Many lifelong friendships have resulted from this successful program.

One veteran host family noted that the warm relationships they have developed over the years now span the globe. They have attended weddings in other countries, welcomed babies and had unique inter-cultural experiences that have enriched their lives beyond all expectations.

Every Friday evening at 6 p.m. there is an “FAC” in the lobby of International House on Elizabeth Street and City Park. There are refreshments and interesting themes, programs or games throughout the year.

In the summer, FACs become outdoor potluck barbecues at the rear of I-House. These informal gatherings are probably the easiest way to meet people. The events are open to all, students and community members alike. Many domestic students also have checked it out and now it is a regularly scheduled part of their social schedule. A domestic student commented that one of her favorite recent FAC’s was “Pakistani Night,” where she got to eat the food, learn about the culture and, best-of-all, make interesting new friends.

The outdoor program offers trips to the mountains for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking or simply exploring.

There are cultural trips to points of interest to allow newcomers to experience the beauty and diversity that surrounds us. There is a Fall Harvest party and dance as well as many celebrations of our various holidays.

During the winter holidays many members open their homes and share their holiday traditions with others. All events are open to the public at minimal or no cost, all designed to acquaint our guests with our customs, our people, and our beautiful state.

A scholar from India told us “through these outdoor programs, he learned to ski, snowshoe, hike and camp which he would probably not have done otherwise.”

The International Woman’s Club brings local and international women together to share and discuss ideas and activities of interest to all.

Many international spouses come here and have no connections until they are able to join such groups. They meet at 9:30 a.m. the last Thursday of every month at 1600 W. Plum St., Building 34, University Center. This is open to all women.

International Night at the Library, held twice a month, provides travelogues and discussions of various regions and countries around the globe. Many community members attend regularly, especially if they have been to or are planning to travel to the areas presented.

In addition, “armchair” travelers get to interact with live speakers rather than doing so electronically.

Global Ambassadors, a newer program, gives the opportunity for our international students and scholars to share their culture and experiences with local classrooms and community groups.

There are Conversational English classes where students or their spouses can come to improve their English in an informal setting, while meeting others in similar situations.

Information about all these programs or activities can be found at www.fortnet.org or by calling (970) 491-7398. In addition, you can subscribe to a listserv that announces all events of interest to the international community. To subscribe, visit http://wsprod.colostate.edu/cwis30/2007/ISSS/index.asp?url=intlinfo

As one can see, it is possible to travel the globe, make new friends, share in unforgettable experiences all within the confines of the greater campus community.

While the world is actually large, it is readily accessible to us in the CSU community, right here and right now.

Roy Mongelli is a member of the Executive Board of the Fort Collins International Center. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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