Beyond the Books

Beyond the Books

"Whenever I take part in the student activities, I feel like I am not only making friends, but I also feel like I am part of a huge international family here in the U.S.A."

International students are cheering as their rafts clear the rapids on a Rocky Mountain stream. They dig for clams along the beaches of New England. They learn to dance to Cajun music. They experience the thrill of bungee jumping for the first time. A quiet international student from Malaysia finds out she is not so timid after all, as she develops a passion for rock climbing and digs into the granite.

All of these students are benefiting from planned activity programs developed by their schools to help them have fun in the USA.

As an international student, your life in the USA will not stop at the campus gates. You will be able to enjoy many activities in the nearby town or city, and you’ll travel to other parts of the United States. It is not uncommon for international students to travel to a new and exciting region of the country during every break of the academic year. Surely you will be no exception—take every chance you have to explore all that the USA has to offer.

Now with comprehensive activity programming for international students, it is easier than ever before. Most schools offer special activities for international students to get them acquainted with the USA, American culture, and to help them meet other students on campus and in their program. Campus life offers many opportunities for expanding interests and making friends.

On other campuses throughout the USA international students are treated as special guests, with exciting events planned just for them! These events range anywhere from pumpkin carving for Halloween to live jazz music to swing dance, or even fly fishing lessons.

Spring International Language Center (SILC) offers activities that are unique to its location. The University of Arkansas center in Fayetteville, sponsors hiking, canoeing and ice skating outings. There are trips to Eureka Springs, a historic Ozark mountain village famous for traditional American arts and crafts, as well as jazz, blues and bluegrass music. The village is also the home of the Cherokee Indian Heritage Museum. Students interested in history and politics can visit the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.

Skiing and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains provide a winter adventure for students at Spring International Language Center (SILC) in Colorado.

"Since there's no skiing in Libya, the school ski trip was a first for me," says student Afaf Ramadan. "It takes a lot of endurance to ski downhill," she continues "but when we finish skiing we get to drink hot chocolate."

Each January, students at SILC's Auraria Higher Education Center campus in Denver, crowd into the bleachers to watch cowboys and cattle rustling at the National Western Rodeo and Stock Show.

In December, Bellevue College students are guests for an evening cruise on Lake Washington as part of a parade of lighted festival ships. They admire the colorful lights reflecting on the lake, listen to Christmas carolers and visit with Santa Claus. They eat traditional holiday foods such as ginger cookies and drink hot cider. Usually the boat stops along the shore so the students can join neighborhood bonfire parties. This way they join in American Christmas traditions.

The International Programs office at Whatcom Community College in Washington State makes it easy for international students to participate in all kinds of activities, with a staff member who organizes the activities and provides transportation.

"I love that I can be involved in a different activity almost every weekend, and I don't even need a car," says Claudia Davila, a student from Peru. "It seems like every week I am doing something that I never would have had a chance to try at home."

The College organizes trips for skiing, sea kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and golfing.

Throughout the winter months, there are various ski and snowboarding trips to resorts in the U.S. and Canada. Once each year students spend a weekend skiing in Whistler, B.C. Students stay together in a hotel accompanied by an International Student Advisor.

These trips are open to experienced skiers and snowboarders, as well as those who have no experience on the slopes. In addition, many U.S. students join the trips, which provide an excellent opportunity for all students to make new friends.

There are also many events at the College such as concerts, dinners, and cultural shows.

At Marquette University in Wisconsin, international students have the opportunity to participate in the International Friendship Program. New students are matched with individuals and families from the local community and experience life at a typical U.S. home through family dinners, holiday gatherings, sporting events and more. It also provides Milwaukee community members first-hand knowledge of another culture, increasing international understanding within our community. (For more information about the program: http://www.marquette.edu/oie/friendship-program/)

Down south, students at Rice University in Houston, Texas celebrate regional pride with "Go Texan Day." Go Texan Day is a tradition that dates back to 1954, when Houstonians dress in Western wear to show their Texas pride and celebrate the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. As honorary Texans, Rice University Intensive English Program students come to class that day wearing their best cowboy and cowgirl attire. There is a Best-Dressed Cowboy and Cowgirl Contest and the winners get cool Texas-themed prizes, including cowboy and cowgirl hats and sheriff badges! Rice University ESL students sure know how to dress like authentic Texans! Yee haw!

Not to be outdone, at the University of Findlay in Ohio, international students can expect a full program of events and activities during their three-day orientation. Not only are they educated on the "survival skills" and knowledge that will be necessary to succeed at the University, but the orientation also includes many fun activities -basketball, swimming, volleyball, open skate, and a live band for an evening of festivities.

Oftentimes, the best way to learn about a new culture is not through a book or lecture, but by experiencing it firsthand. Several programs at Rockland Community College, a unit of the State University of New York near New York City, are designed to integrate international students into American culture. The College invites all 200 international students to a special Thanksgiving luncheon so the students can learn about the American holiday by participating in some of the traditional festivities. At the luncheon students learn about the history of Thanksgiving, sing-a-long to American folk music, and indulge in a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Students enjoy turkey, gravy, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce and apple cider, while sitting at tables set with fall colors.

The English Language Program at the University of Pennsylvania brings representatives from Penn student groups to tell the intensive English students about clubs they can join, such as Ballroom Dance Club, Juggling Club or Gaming Club. For the last two summers, ELP's tennis club has played in Penn's tennis courts.

The colorful city of New Orleans lends itself as an endless source of adventure for international students in the New Orleans Culture class within Loyola University, New Orleans’ Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP). Weekly field trips to places like Destrehan Plantation, Jean Lafitte National Park and the French Quarter allow students to practice their English skills creatively outside of the classroom. LIEP students integrate class content through experiencing Jazz music, festivals, French and Spanish colonial architecture and Creole food.

Intensive English Language Institute students from the University of North Texas visit the Fort Worth Stockyards for an “old West” rodeo. At the rodeo, international students can buy ten-gallon hats, spurs and western boots. Other outings include trips to guest ranches where students “saddle up” for short trail rides, eat a typical ranch meal of barbeque and beans and learn western line dancing. During the university’s Spring Celebration of World Cultures, students present an International Performance Festival, a Food Fair, and a display of items from all over the world.

Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, treats intensive English students to a fun-filled farewell reception that includes a talent show, special awards and raffle prizes. During the talent show, students enjoy performing dance and music pieces to share with their friends. Student are presented with creative awards such as "Most Likely to Win the Nobel Peace Prize", "Most Likely to Use Office Hours", and "Most Likely to Be Smiling". Lucky students also win door prizes including flash drives, gift certificates to the bookstore, and dictionaries.

No matter where you choose to study in the United States there will be many events and activities planned by your international programs office. Take advantage of these fun, cost effective ways to meet new people, improve your English, and see the “real life” side of the U.S. Come to the USA and experience an unparalleled world of exciting adventures, where memories are just waiting to be made!

Rice University

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