Lansing helps international students integrate into community

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More than 7,600 international students at MSU have become part of the Lansing community. Due to homesickness and language barriers, some international students choose to isolate themselves and never connect with locals in the Lansing community. However, with the help from International Friendship Program and Hope World Game Night, as well as the resident volunteers, the Lansing community has created a friendly atmosphere for international students to feel welcome, making a win-win outcome from promoting intercultural communication.

For more than 60 years, the International Friendship Program at MSU has been a volunteer-based nonprofit program. The program pairs international students with Lansing residents. Consequently, students like Binbin Wang felt they “have a home in Lansing,” hosts like Elisha Defrain felt her student “opening my horizon to the world.”

As a nonprofit program, IFP only receives a tiny portion of its budget from the Office of International Students and Scholars for orientations every semester. Members of the program volunteer to operate the committee. In recent years when there are more student participants, IFP sometimes had to rely on its old residential friends to pair. IFP is now also seeking to “get more words out.”

Card games and potlucks provide opportunities for international students to be
part of the community quickly. World Game Night, with its slogan, “come and
bring games from your culture, learn new games from other countries,” was started by Amanda Ghanbarpour in August 2016. Ghanbarpour decided “to be the one reaching out,” based on her own experience of living abroad.

With similar intention, Carla Bieber, a resident in Lansing, has been holding monthly international potlucks since August 2016. With more than three years of working with international students, Bieber believes food is the bridge for intercultural communication, and potluck is the best way to help international students, as well as her own children, learn from and acknowledge cultural diversity.

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