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Hope College December 2012 : Page 6

Campus Profile Program for Hope Home International Helps Make Students In that first weekend, Natalie and about 30 other new international and third-culture (U.S. students who live abroad) students hiked the Sleeping Bear Dunes in northwest Lower Michigan, visited Mackinac Island, camped at Timberwolf Young Life Camp and sat around a bonfire. “I felt I had known everyone for years,” Natalie said. “One of the moments I will treasure forever is the night we were all sitting around the fire, eating s’mores, and playing a game to learn each other’s names. “We were all laughing, talking, listening, and simply having a good time. To me, it was that night that brought us all together.” For Ohanes Khacherian, a freshman from Jordan, Explore Michigan provided an opportunity to see a fresh-water lake for the first time in his life. His only previous experience with a large body of water was the salty Red Sea in his native land. “Explore Michigan totally blew my mind. It was one of the most exciting trips I have ever had in my life, and I was so astonished by how amazing Michigan is,” Ohanes said. “I couldn’t take my eyes off the trees and the green grass. The Sleeping Bear Dunes completely reformed the idea of how a beach looks like.” Xavier Wu, a freshman from China, called Explore Michigan “my favorite experience” of his first months as a Hope student. “I met many interesting people through having fun with them, who have become my friends now,” he said. By Greg Chandler N atalie Polanco had no idea what to expect when she arrived on the Hope campus in mid-August after flying nearly 2,000 miles from her native Dominican Republic to start her college career. Like most any college freshman, Natalie was nervous, particularly because she didn’t know anyone at Hope yet. Once she arrived, though, it didn’t take long for her to connect. A pre-orientation adventure trip conducted through Hope’s international education office, called Explore Michigan, not only helped Natalie adjust to her new home, but also build relationships with fellow international students, many of whom were away from home for the first time in their lives. This was the second year that the Hope international education office has conducted the Explore Michigan program. Amy Otis-De Grau ’96, Hope’s international education director, says the program has been of great benefit in helping international students adjust to American culture and integrate themselves into campus life. “It’s a great bonding experience, and allows “I feel that Hope is a big family, where everyone on campus is always available if you need them. I just love how everyone truly cares. This has made my transition to Hope easier and smoother.” --freshman Natalie Polanco of the Dominican Republic The week before the semester started served as a pre-orientation, with events for students as well as their parents—and sometimes both together, as with a picnic at Tunnel Park along Lake Michigan north of Holland. 6 News News From From Hope Hope College College

Program Helps Make Hope Home for International Students

Greg Chandler

<br /> Natalie Polanco had no idea what to expect when she arrived on the Hope campus in mid-August after flying nearly 2,000 miles from her native Dominican Republic to start her college career.<br /> <br /> Like most any college freshman, Natalie was nervous, particularly because she didn’t know anyone at Hope yet.<br /> <br /> Once she arrived, though, it didn’t take long for her to connect. A pre-orientation adventure trip conducted through Hope’s international education office, called Explore Michigan, not only helped Natalie adjust to her new home, but also build relationships with fellow international students, many of whom were away from home for the first time in their lives.<br /> <br /> In that first weekend, Natalie and about 30 other new international and third-culture (U.S. students who live abroad) students hiked the Sleeping Bear Dunes in northwest Lower Michigan, visited Mackinac Island, camped at Timberwolf Young Life Camp and sat around a bonfire.<br /> <br /> “I felt I had known everyone for years,” Natalie said. “One of the moments I will treasure forever is the night we were all sitting around the fire, eating s’mores, and playing a game to learn each other’s names.<br /> <br /> “We were all laughing, talking, listening, and simply having a good time. To me, it was that night that brought us all together.”<br /> <br /> For Ohanes Khacherian, a freshman from Jordan, Explore Michigan provided an opportunity to see a fresh-water lake for the first time in his life. His only previous experience with a large body of water was the salty Red Sea in his native land.<br /> <br /> “Explore Michigan totally blew my mind. It was one of the most exciting trips I have ever had in my life, and I was so astonished by how amazing Michigan is,” Ohanes said. “I couldn’t take my eyes off the trees and the green grass. The Sleeping Bear Dunes completely reformed the idea of how a beach looks like.”<br /> <br /> Xavier Wu, a freshman from China, called Explore Michigan “my favorite experience” of his first months as a Hope student. “I met many interesting people through having fun with them, who have become my friends now,” he said.<br /> <br /> This was the second year that the Hope international education office has conducted the Explore Michigan program. Amy Otis- De Grau ’96, Hope’s international education director, says the program has been of great benefit in helping international students adjust to American culture and integrate themselves into campus life.<br /> <br /> “It’s a great bonding experience, and allows the students to get to know each other outside the context of the Hope College campus,” said Otis-De Grau, a native of Germany who moved to America while in high school. “By the time the students return to campus, they have built a community amongst themselves.”<br /> <br /> Barbara Krom ’84 Miller, associate director of admissions and international recruitment at Hope, says Explore Michigan is important in helping the new students realize they have each other for support, even before they take their first class.<br /> <br /> “The kids are forming relationships in those two days that often takes them weeks or even months to form otherwise,” Miller said.<br /> <br /> The integration to a new culture isn’t limited to the students, either. Parents and family members who accompany their children to Hope have their own orientation experience, thanks to support from the college’s advancement office, while the students are taking part in Explore Michigan. They go on a trip to Chicago, attend a West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game, have dinner with Alfredo Gonzales, Hope’s dean of international and multicultural education, and go on a boat ride on Lake Michigan, Otis-De Grau said.<br /> <br /> Hope currently has 83 international students from 35 countries on five continents. In addition, the college also hosts students from Ferris University (Japan), Meiji Gakuin University (Japan), Technos International College (Japan) and Liverpool Hope University (United Kingdom) for short-term programs. Having students from so many different countries has historically been a strength of Hope’s international program, Otis- De Grau said.<br /> <br /> “There’s so much learning that can take place for everyone involved, both for international students and American students,” she said.<br /> <br /> While Explore Michigan provides a great opportunity for international students to connect before classes begin at Hope, the college’s international education program offers opportunities throughout the year to get together, including field trips to the corn maze at Crane’s Orchard, located in the rural community of Fennville, Mich., about 15 miles south of Holland; the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich.; and cross-country skiing and sledding trips to a local county park.<br /> <br /> The Explore Michigan program is made possible by generous support from donors who see the value of having an international presence on the Hope campus, as a way of fulfilling the college’s mission of educating students to live lives of service and leadership in a global society, Otis-De Grau said.<br /> <br /> International students come to Hope through a variety of channels, often through connections with Hope graduates that they may have had as a teacher or a youth leader overseas. In addition, three recruiters in the Admissions Office of the college have begun traveling to specific regions of the world to increase Hope’s efforts in recruiting international students to Hope.<br /> <br /> “We’re strong academically, so we highlight our strong science programs and opportunities for undergraduate research. We also highlight our national accreditation in all the arts,” Miller said. “It’s the combination of strong academics, the personal attention students receive from faculty and staff, and the family-like atmosphere which attract students to Hope.”<br /> <br /> This past fall semester, Miller recruited in Turkey and Greece, while Gary Camp ’78 participated in a recruiting trip to Latin America, and Adam Hopkins ’02 recruited in India and Saudi Arabia. Camp plans to cover parts of Asia during a recruitment trip this spring.<br /> <br /> Polanco heard about Hope through a discipleship training program she attended in Switzerland where the leaders were Hope graduates.<br /> <br /> “They told me all about it, and how they saw it was a great match for me,” she said. So Natalie visited the Hope web site and saw the opportunities for learning, and applied right away.<br /> <br /> There are ample opportunities throughout the academic year for the international students to share their background and culture with the rest of the campus community, including a global coffee hour early in the academic year, an International Education week in November, a cultural showcase called “Images: A Reflection of Cultures,” and an international food fair in February. There’s even a pumpkin-carving competition in the fall during which international students are teamed up with American students, Otis-De Grau said.<br /> <br /> One key area of support for international students comes from U.S.-born students who have studied overseas through Hope. “They’ve had the experience of being the international student. When they’re back on campus, they’re drawn to that community,” Otis-De Grau said.<br /> <br /> Natalie Polanco is now dealing with her first experience with winter weather in the northern U.S. So far, she is happy she made the decision to come to Hope.<br /> <br /> “I feel that Hope is a big family, where everyone on campus is always available if you need them,” she said. “I just love how everyone truly cares. This has made my transition to Hope easier and smoother.”

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