The Collegian
Saturday, April 13, 2024

Community building among international students increase with informal monthly dinners

<p>Seniors Hoor Ul Ain and Ivana Filipovic host an informal dinner at Heilman Dining Center on March 23.&nbsp;</p>

Seniors Hoor Ul Ain and Ivana Filipovic host an informal dinner at Heilman Dining Center on March 23. 

The Office of International Education started hosting monthly informal gatherings for international students in February of this year, with the latest one happening on March 23.  

The hangouts take place in the Heilman Dining Center and are usually hosted by one or two international students.

The International Office began holding these events after observing a significant demand from internationals to have more opportunities to engage with other internationals on campus, according to the international student newsletter that is sent to international students every two weeks.

Every month, the Office of International Education reserves a space for regular get-togethers to eat at the dining hall. By approaching the international office, any international student can volunteer to host one of these dinners.

Senior Mohamad Hussein volunteered to host the first event that took place on Feb. 23. The event was advertised in the International Newsletter sent to international students.

The dinner lasted around two hours and around 10 students across all class years showed up. 

Hussein felt that the gathering had a good turnout of students. The attendees were happy to get an opportunity to socialize with other international students, he said.

“I really appreciated having international students and also having a couple domestic students intermingling with each other and having great conversations,” Hussein said.

The second dinner took place on March 23 and was hosted by seniors Hoor Ul Ain and Ivana Filipovic. 

Ul Ain works as a global guide in the Office of International Education and said the office came up with the idea of hosting the dinner.

“We were trying to figure out how to increase community building between international students and realized that having dinners in the dining hall would be most doable for all internationals,” Ul Ain said.

Ul Ain also talked about how the Office of International Education used to arrange additional events for international students, such as tea parties, but they felt that they were not reaching enough of them and discussed strategies to connect with the majority of the international student population on campus. 

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Hence, they came up with the idea of hosting monthly dinners which would be more accessible and easy for students to attend.

Conversations in the dinner ranged from advice about what classes to take to sharing stories about being an international student both inside and outside the classroom.  

The majority of the attendees at the dinner were first years and they spoke about how the dinners gave them a great chance to interact with other students and build a sense of community among the internationals.

Students also mentioned that this would be a wonderful opportunity for incoming international students to socialize with others in a relaxed setting next semester. 

Junior Dunja Beslac was an attendee at this month’s dinner and agreed with this point. 

“It was a really cool experience meeting new students in a relaxed setting and not a lecture where you have to do something,” she said.

Beslac mentioned how she felt that it was a great opportunity for upperclassmen to meet and interact with underclassmen, and that since the dinners take place in a casual setting and get everyone chatting to each other, this could turn into a mentorship opportunity between the younger and older students in the future.

Contact international writer Muskan Agarwal at muskan.agarwal@richmond.edu

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