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.

EF @ OU: An International Education Partnership

Exciting things are happening at Oglethorpe this year! In addition to the new scene shop and developing track and field and campus center, Oglethorpe just established a great partnership with Education First, or EF. As both an OU alum and an EF employee, I’m very excited to watch this partnership evolve! If you don’t know what EF is, we’re an international education company that aims to break down barriers of language, culture, and geography. We have more than 40 schools around the world, including sites in Boston, London, Rome, Paris, and Sydney, just to name a few.

Our site at Oglethorpe, referred to as EF Atlanta, is the newest EF school. Currently, our students come from a wide range of countries, such as France, Taiwan, Japan, and Colombia. Most students live on campus in the recently reopened Schmidt Residence Hall. Though our students live on campus and come abroad, they are different than the traditional OU international students. Unlike traditional international students, our students do not take OU classes; instead, they take English classes with our EF teachers. However, our students are almost identical to OU students in other ways: they eat in the cafeteria, pay activity and facility fees, and want to meet other students and make friendships while they are here.

In addition to occupying Schmidt, most of our classrooms and offices are located in the newly renovated lower level of Robinson Hall. If you haven’t checked out the new area, I highly encourage you to drop by! It’s incredible that a storage area can be transformed into such a beautiful spot in just a few short months!

Going forward, EF Atlanta aims to have 150-200 students, both on campus and with nearby host families. We also aspire to unite with existing groups on campus, so that EF and OU students can benefit from the combined resources and innovations of two amazing schools. Students can expect more co-planned activities with EF and OU, like our upcoming trip to Cirque du Soleil on October 26th. In the future, we hope to work with Oglethorpe’s study abroad program to offer a more comprehensive and diverse experience for OU students looking to learn another language while immersing themselves in another culture.

Current students can help us and OU out by showing our students the famous Oglethorpe hospitality, attending our many events, and introducing yourselves to our students! If you’re a local alum with an open room, you can help out by hosting one of our students.  I think that this partnership is amazing for Oglethorpe, and I hope that yOU want to be a part of it with me. (Even as an alum, I can hardly resist the urge to underline or capitalize every consecutive “OU” that I come across!)

For more information, contact Justin at 404-547-0419 or email justin.sabree@EF.com.