International students mingle at mixer

Jeremia Schrock /  Sun Star Reporter
September 7, 2011

Freya Casier, an exchange student from Denmark, outside the Fine Arts Complex during the International Student Mixer on Aug. 31, 2011. Casier is studying rural development and gender studies here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

Freya Casier, an exchange student from Denmark, outside the Fine Arts Complex during the International Student Mixer on Aug. 31, 2011. Casier is studying rural development and gender studies here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

The philosopher Socrates said, “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” On Aug. 31, students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) became Socratic in spirit, welcoming more than 120 international exchange students to America’s Arctic university at a meet-and-greet mixer. The International Student/Scholar Program and the International Student Organization co-hosted the event. This was the second time the annual event was held.

Students from across the globe attended, with representatives from countries including Mongolia, China, Japan, France, Scotland, Denmark and Germany. Many students gave the same reasons for coming to UAF: the desire to see Alaska and further their studies.

Nichola Morris, from Scotland, came to UAF “for the natural beauty and all that sort of stuff,” she said. In Scotland, Morris studied at the University of Glasgow (UG). She’ll continue her degree in general biology during her stay at UAF.

The biggest difference Morris has seen so far between UAF and UG is the curriculum – UAF is more student-friendly while UG is more structured. She’s looking forward to her new coursework, she said.

For Kizmet Sherwood, another exchange student from UG, UAF is the place to be. Sherwood is studying wildlife biology and said the program at UAF “fits [my degree] better then the courses I’d take in the UK.”

Yuko Kato and Yuri Horie, both from Japan, are attending UAF to study English. Kato also studies chemistry and added that she came to UAF because that’s what her teacher told her to do. It’s common for Japanese professors to send their students overseas with little input from the students, according to Japanese and business major Rauchelle King. King spent a semester abroad at Nagoya University in Japan.

Brandon Ilgen, the coordinator for the International Student/Scholar Program, said the mixer is important for the campus’s international community. “It’s important to help students feel welcome,” he said. “Especially when they’ve traveled so far to be with us.”

Language barriers don’t impede student experiences at UAF, Ilgen said. He added that most incoming students are either fluent in the English language or are registered in English-learning programs.

The event is special because of its “citizen diplomacy” angle, Ilgen said. The mixer allows international students to mix with the campus community and vice-versa.

“The whole point is to make people feel welcome and to make them feel connected,” he said. “The greatest support students have is other students.”

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