International Mentoring Program Unites EF and OU Students

That's me in the front with my protege, Max from Germany.

That’s me in the front with my protege, Max from Germany.

In July 2012, Oglethorpe partnered with Education First (EF), an international language provider that allows students to study language and culture in diverse environments around the world, including 14 North American cities. Atlanta is their most recent location.

As the cultural hub of the south, Atlanta is attractive to many international students and the educational and social opportunities in the city have created a surge of interest for EF’s Atlanta campus. Over the past year Oglethorpe’s campus has welcomed dozens of students from China, Germany, Venezuela, Korea, Honduras, and other countries all over the world.

EF protégés and OU mentors meet for the first time at orientation.

EF protégés and OU mentors meet for the first time at orientation.

In response, Oglethorpe has launched an international mentoring program to help provide a welcoming environment and encourage interaction between Oglethorpe and EF students. Led by Campus Life, the program pairs OU and EF students together with the goal of encouraging more opportunities to interact socially and a greater chance to learn from one another. Emmanuel Brantley ’15, an OU student organizer for the program, says “this program is very important because it provides the EF-Atlanta students with what they came to this specific location for—an interactive collegiate learning experience.”

This initial program pilot includes 11 pairs of OU student mentors and EF student protégés. I was paired with Max, a German native in the EF’s University Transition Program, and from our perspective, the pairs were well selected. We are already learning from each other about culture (especially sports) and language—I am studying German and Max is trying to master English. The program is successful in its goal to create more of an opportunity for friendship rather than feeling like a formal partnership.

EFLogo(2)(1)Each pair of students meets once a week to talk about classes and what’s happening in each others’ lives, and have been asked to journal about our experiences to present at the monthly all-member meeting.

EF Mentorship OrlandoDiego Cassy (2)Though these will be the only formal meetings, we’re already started to build networks of friends that are bringing together the EF and OU students. Max, my friends and I have planned trips to basketball games, whitewater rafting, and casual evenings to watch sports, and other partners are beginning to do the same.

The main goal of the program is to lead by example—that students in the program will be role models for mutual understanding about each others’ perspectives, cultures, and experiences. “The international mentoring program is an effort to unify the EF community and the traditional Oglethorpe community,” concluded program leader Robin Brandt, director of experiential learning “and we already have seen successes.”

For me, the program is an opportunity to become a more globally aware individual while simultaneously making my home and school a welcoming place for international students.

OU Student, Aspiring Ambassador Invited to Speak to Atlanta International Students

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Anwaar Abu Shugair ’16

Every year the Atlanta Ministry for International Students hosts a welcome reception for international students who are studying in Atlanta. This fall’s 36th annual reception was held at Spelman College and Oglethorpe’s own Anwaar Abu Shugair ’16, a native of Jordan, was invited to address the hundreds of students who are making Atlanta universities their temporary homes this year.

The reception is open to all international students in Atlanta, making it a massive gathering of cultures where everyone can mingle, eat international foods, enjoy a performance by the Atlanta Opera, and meet “amigo families”—American families who open their homes to international students during the holidays. Anwaar was a part of the delegation welcoming the students to the U.S. and Atlanta.

amisEstablished in 1978 by local churches and the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, AMIS was created to encourage connections between Atlanta natives and international students to make their stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. Anwaar, who was a part of the program as a new international student last year, says that it had helped her to integrate into the American culture, which is drastically different from her own, she says. Anwaar especially enjoyed “getting to eat the turkey and pies on Thanksgiving” surrounded by new friends. As a result, she found it easy to feel comfortable in America and she quickly settled in and made a home of Atlanta and Oglethorpe.

Anwaar knew Oglethorpe would be the right place for her ever since she first started reviewing her options for universities with her school advisor in Jordan. Her high school, King’s Academy, promoted mastery of both English and Arabic, global citizenship, and boasts a world class liberal arts curriculum. This perfectly prepared her for an institution like Oglethorpe, which is rich in cultural life and the liberal arts. The size and the ratio of students to faculty here ensured her that she would not feel overwhelmed by being suddenly surrounded by thousands of students in a new country, and the curriculum was perfect for her career aspirations.

Anwaar is double majoring in Politics and Economics, and hopes to earn a master’s degree in the U.S. before returning to Jordan to possibly complete a PhD program there. One day she would like to be a diplomat, perhaps even the Jordanian ambassador to the U.S. She is already accumulating ambassadorial experience here at Oglethorpe through working in the Office of Admission and in the Academic Success Center as a tutor.

OU Volleyball Team Serving Up “Dig Pink” Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Meet the OU Volleyball team and Coach Richie Tang—and find out more about their upcoming fundraiser, part of The Side-Out Foundation’s Dig Pink® campaign to benefit breast cancer research. Players, coaches, parents, volunteers, spectators and survivors can look forward to a special day on Saturday, October 19, in Dorough Field House at 1:00 p.m. (home game vs. Rhodes College). Get set for Dig Pink Day, and be sure to wear something pink!

Video by Christie Pearce ’15 / Pegasus Creative

Gates Millennium Scholar Selects Oglethorpe

009Oglethorpe freshman Lila Siwakoti ’17 says that he’s thankful for many things. He should also be very proud of his accomplishments.

Lila was born in a refugee camp in Nepal and immigrated to the U.S. in 2009, thanks to a sponsorship from the International Rescue Committee. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the nonprofit responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.

“Refugee life is not like a regular life,” says Lila. “You live at home in fear. You have food and medical shortages.” Adapting to a foreign culture and language was rough for him, he says. But over time, Lila and his family settled in to life in the U.S. and he says he is thankful to live here. Lila eventually became fluent enough in English to take AP and Honors classes and credits his religion, Hinduism, with helping him do well in school.

Gates-Millennium-Scholars-logoSo well, in fact, that Lila was awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding minority students with significant financial need. This year’s applicant pool for the scholarship was record-breaking, according to Lila. More than 54,000 students applied but only 1,000 are selected each year. To put this into perspective, less than 2% of applicants were accepted this year.

To qualify, students must demonstrate leadership abilities and academic distinction. They must also have two nominations for the scholarship—one for academics and one recommending the student for their leadership qualities. Lila graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Clarkston High School and actively participated in his community through volunteer work.

Lila chose to attend Oglethorpe because of Oglethorpe’s small class sizes. He likes the fact that you are able to visit professors during office hours and they know who you are rather than be a nameless member of the class. Plus, his family is important to him and the campus’s proximity allows him to remain close to them. He considers the scholarship a “blessing” and is currently deliberating on majoring in computer science and minoring in economics.

As part of the scholarship requirements, Lila participates as an ambassador for the Gates Millenium Scholarship program and is currently helping students from his alma mater with the application process. Ultimately, Lila wants to go back to Nepal or Africa and volunteer: “My long term goal is to help people.”

OU Freshman Doubles as Advice Columnist

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Advice columnist Curtis Jones lounges in the Starbucks in Oglethorpe’s Turner Lynch Campus Center.

At first glance, Curtis Jones ’17 seems fairly typical amidst the throng of students in the campus Starbucks. You’d never guess that he has a “secret identity”: Curtis is an advice columnist for metro Atlanta teens.

The Oglethorpe freshman writes for Vox, a nonprofit teen magazine based in Atlanta that is “the voice of Atlanta teens.” It’s the city’s largest publication created by and for teens without censorship. The magazine is distributed to high schools and community groups. Vox also offers a blog, an after school program, and summer seminars for students interested in learning how to cover “new multimedia techniques for storytelling, the fundamentals of journalism, poetry, photography and design.

According to Curtis, he stumbled into his writing position when he was a high school senior. He had dropped by Vox’s office with friends already involved in the magazine and discovered that the Vox volunteers and students were “welcoming and friendly,” so he immediately asked how he could get involved.

VoxCurtis had always been interested in writing music and lyrics but has discovered that he also enjoys the kind of writing he gets to do for Vox. He worked his way up and took over the advice column at the end of the summer of 2013. The questions he answers tend to be staff-generated, but students are also encouraged to submit questions to the editor. The questions can range anywhere from academics to even more personal questions regarding relationships.

Curtis’ community involvement already extends to Oglethorpe as well. On campus, he’s active with the Black Student Caucus and OUtlet and is interested in joining the staff of the student newspaper, The Stormy Petrel. He hasn’t yet decided on a major, but is debating between communications or fields like counseling or social work. “I just want to help people,” he says,”That’s something that I’ve always known that I get joy out of.”

Ultimately, he chose to attend Oglethorpe for multiple reasons. Curtis says he “fell in love” with the campus itself during Admitted Students Day, plus the diversity of the campus was a determining factor. “It’s really big to me to be able to interact with so many different people.”

Curtis is a positive and determined student who by all indications will be a future campus leader.  Check out Curtis and his VOX colleague Akil singing about why “VOX rocks”: