Building Bridges Through Exchange

Hiep Nguyen and other students pose in front of the food boxes 2020-2021 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

One of the goals of the Global UGRAD Program is to “facilitate opportunities for students to establish social networks with U.S. host institutions and local communities”. There are a few ways the Global UGRAD students achieve this goal including through community service, friendship, and meeting with professors.

The Global UGRAD Program requires the students to complete 20 hours of community service within the local community. This semester there are students completing hours at local libraries, community centers, schools, and many other places. One student talked about how on their weekend trip to New York they saw how many homeless people needed help, so when he returned to campus, he sought out a community service opportunity where he could volunteer at a homeless shelter.

There are many stories of friendship that the Global UGRAD students have shared since arriving on campus. A favorite was of one student who had arrived earlier to campus and showed a fellow Global UGRAD student, who arrived later, around. She helped her find the dining hall and her classrooms. There are also a few Global UGRADs who are all at different universities but are going to try to plan to meet up in California for a trip. Many participants will go home with their American friends for holidays through out the semester. This gives them an opportunity to see these celebrations from the perspective of a U.S. household.

These students spend a lot of time studying topics that may be tricky for them and they continue to build connections through their professors. May students utilize their professors office hours to get help for topics they need extra help with. Other students will talk to their professors about research they may have interest in.

The connections the UGRAD students make during their time in the U.S. are a critical part of the experience. These friendships have been known to continue into their professional lives and create a bridge between the U.S. and the home countries of the UGRAD students.