By Min Jiao
Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is a traditional Chinese Spring Festival. The International Club plans to celebrate with the campus by hosting a Chinese New Year event from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 at Deets Library.
International Club members will make some traditional Chinese food and introduce some traditional Chinese culture. They will display a poster about the Chinese New Year and a slide show about how to celebrate the New Year.
About 50 international students from 10 different countries including China, Malaysia, Singapore, Mozambique, Indonesia, England, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, attend Southwestern College. There is also a visiting faculty from Belarus.
Rena Rodriguez, director of international student services, is the advisor to International Club. She said, “For the New Year event the whole campus is invited, faculty, staff and students. I always let the host families know what the international students are doing on campus, so they are invited to all events.”
Rodriguez said host families are community members who like to be involved with the college. They get to know international students and provide a support system for students who are far away from home.
“The host families invite them over for dinner for holidays, birthdays, and just to be that support system as a family away from home,” said Rodriguez.
Rachel Wong, psychology and mathematics sophomore, from Singapore. She said, “I think it’s a really nice way to help international students adapt to a new country and to a whole new culture.”
Cindy Goertz, host family, said, “We like to meet new students and people from everywhere. We had been involved with Southwestern women’s basketball and when we could become part of the international students, we wanted to do that. We could learn more about customs and what it’s like all over the world.”
Goertz said, “Our first one was from Malaysia. Then we had one from Zimbabwe. We have hosted maybe 14 international students from different countries. We saw different people everywhere and we liked to get to know different folks from around the world.”
Dawn Pleas-Bailey, vice president for student life and special assistant to the president for community outreach, helped initiate the host family network. Winfield community members Susan Norton, Cindy Goertz and Betsy Drennan help find all the host families.
Rodriguez said, “It was started a few years ago, just as we had more international students to be that support system. I think other schools have host family programs but this is a great community for it.”
Goertz said “I love the idea of host families. We would see all international students on campus but we really wouldn’t know what they like to do and some of their customs and about their country.”
“We can share with each other and they get to know what we are really like, instead of just seeing somebody on campus or in town. When they come to our house or we take you to eat, we get to talk and know them as well,” said Goertz.
John Scaggs, professor of English, and Alice Bendienlli, assistant professor of English, are Wong’s host family.
“I like them because we have a lot of things to talk about. We talk about books and what books to read and they recommend books for me to read. We meet occasionally just for dinner and stuff,” said Wong.
Wong said, “Alice is Italian. I like hanging out with them because she makes really good authentic Italian food. Once I cooked dinner for them to show them what it’s like back home.”
Goertz said, “I like to take them out to eat and take them to our house. I like to surprise them with little presents. We used to eat in the cafeteria. I like to eat in the cafeteria and visit with everybody, because all the international students used to eat together and I got to visit with them.”
Min Jiao is a junior majoring in communication. You may e-mail her firstname.lastname@example.org.