It is mid-September and Lakeland students, faculty, and staff are a few weeks into the 2015-2016 academic year. The Malawian graduate students, like others in the campus community, are beginning to settle into a regular routine of classes, study, and more study. Every other Friday, the graduate students meet with Professor Jeff Elzinga to share how things are going for them, solve any glitches or challenges they are facing, and learn about upcoming events on campus and in the wider community.
At the most recent bi-weekly meeting, there was discussion about logistical matters: where to print documents on campus, how to change computer passwords, the schedule for the shuttle van that goes into Sheboygan, and the need to provide medical records to the school nurse. Professor Elzinga also talked about the Global Students Association (GSA), which is a campus organization that serves the needs of international students. Some of the Malawians were familiar with the group and had already made contact.
Professor Elzinga explained that there are two main events sponsored by GSA each year. One is the International Food Fair, which will take place this year on Saturday, October 24. For the Food Fair, Lakeland's Dining Services staff helps groups of students from different countries join together to prepare traditional dishes from their homelands. The Malwaians typically make nsima, rice, fish, and either beef or chicken, along with a cabbage relish. More than a dozen dishes from around the world are prepared by international students and then sampled by other Lakeland students, faculty, staff and area community members for a small fee.
The other major GSA event each year is International Night, which is staged in April. International Night is a performance-based evening that showcases the singing, dancing, and other artistic talents of Lakeland students from around the world. Both of these GSA experiences are among the most popular events on campus each year, and students from Malawi have participated in them for more than ten years.
During the most recent bi-weekly meeting, Professor Elzinga encouraged the M.Ed. students to consider joining a campus organization such as GSA, or, for example, choir, if they like to sing, or band, if they play a musical instrument. Mike Kumwamba mentioned that he had joined the choir when he was an undergraduate at Lakeland and had a great experience singing with the group and traveling on choir tours in the Midwest. Lakeland offers many organizations that benefit students by providing extra-curricular opportunities to learn and engage with others.
After the recent meeting, I asked the students to share with me some things they are finding surprising or interesting about life in Wisconsin. I received answers like "American students wear caps and short trousers in the classroom during learning time," "people here observe time strictly," and "there is [free] Internet Wi-Fi in every room on campus." I also heard about new and exciting ideas the students have been learning in their classes, but I’ll save those comments for another blog post.
Regarding host families: Anyone in the surrounding community can serve as a host to "watch over" an international student and occasionally invite him or her to experience a dinner, family gathering, or off-campus event, especially during the holidays. If you are reading this blog, live near Lakeland College, and have an interest in serving as a host family to a student from Malawi or anywhere in the world, please contact Ryan Opahle, Assistant Director of Residence Life at .
This post was prepared by Lisa Vihos on behalf of Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government.