Kent State’s International Friendship Program Creates Lasting Partnerships
Kent State University’s International Friendship Program continues to grow and develop partnerships between faculty, staff and students.
Eron Memaj, director of international student affairs, who launched the program in fall 2015, says the idea of the program is to connect international students with faculty and staff who provide advice about academic life and insight into American culture and customs.
“In the fall semester, we started with 20 partnerships,” Memaj says. “Now, this semester, we have more than 80 partnerships.”
Memaj says he hopes the program continues to grow.
“The program was created in order to help students and staff improve their cultural competency and develop a culture of global citizenship, making Kent State an undeniably globally competitive university,” Memaj says.
Two people who demonstrate the success in the program are Lori Randorf, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations, and Beatriz Oliveira from the Brazilian Mobility Program.
Randorf says she took an interest in the friendship program because of the growth of international students at Kent State.
“I felt that this was a great opportunity for me to interact in a personal way with students from our international community and learn more about their experiences at Kent State,” Randorf says. “It is interesting to learn about both the challenges and opportunities they have faced during their time here.”
Randorf says she filled out an application to be part of the program and received an email shortly after saying she was paired with Oliveira.
Oliveira is an international student from Brazil studying nutrition. She attended Kent State as part of the Brazilian Mobility Program, which allows her to study in the U.S. for two semesters.
Oliveira says she learned about the International Friendship Program through Memaj and thought it was a great way to branch out and meet new people.
“International students tend to stick within their own culture,” Oliveira says. “I thought it would be interesting to get to know more Americans and other international students. That’s why I started going to International Mentors. I’m hoping to expand my social life while I’m at Kent State.”
Oliveira says she has international friends who have enjoyed being mentored by faculty members.
“They said it was beneficial to have a faculty member as a friend because they got to show them places outside of campus, such as Cleveland,” Oliveira says. “Some of my friends were even invited to their mentors’ homes for holidays, like Christmas.”
Oliveira says she encourages international students to join the friendship program for both the conversational and cultural aspect of it. She says she and Randorf have gotten coffee a few times since November when they were paired, and are planning other activities.
“My kids are very interested in getting to meet Beatriz,” Randorf says. “That was another reason why I wanted to sign up. I thought it was a great opportunity for my kids to learn about a different culture.”
Randorf says she would love to see the friendship program grow.
“The friendship program is valuable for international students because they get to have a mentor on campus whom they can go to for guidance with challenges they might have,” Randorf says. “It’s a different perspective rather than just talking to their peers who are students.”
For more information on the International Friendship Program, contact Memaj at ememaj [at] kent.edu.
To participate in the friendship program, fill out an application at www.kent.edu/globaleducation/InternationalFriendship.