International Center hosts open house


Photo: Natalie Thies
International students shared their stories during the open house every 20 minutes.

On Friday, March 8, the International Center held its first open house in many years. The event ran from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and served as an opportunity for students to mingle with one another and hear stories from international students. Food was also provided—everything from pizza to taquitos.

The event began outside with folding chairs and information tables set up outside the International Center between several modular buildings on East Campus. When the temperature dropped, organizers moved the event indoors where guests mingled and conversed over food and listened to international students speak about their experiences every 20 minutes.

“I want [American students] connecting and feeling connected to international students because I think a lot of times, international students fly below the radar,” Director of the Office of Internal Students and Scholars Mary Grams said.

In between the student speakers, Grams took the opportunity to speak about the International Center’s offices and services. Together, International Enrollment Services (IES), International Student and Scholars (ISS) and the American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI) help international students transition into life at APU. Sometimes this involves providing help with writing or English and other times it’s helping the students adjust to the American culture.

President Jon Wallace made an appearance at the event to pick prize winners for a raffle. He said the international student body is near and dear to his heart and he hopes it will grow.

“The university really benefits by having international students here and understanding other cultures. And the room we saw today—[I hope] that we would need a room 10 times as big someday,” Wallace said. “I’m glad to see the effort that went into the day. It encourages me.”

Event organizers hoped the open house would bring attention to the International Center as an on-campus entity and spotlight the stories of international students.

“We want students to be familiar with where the International Center is located. We’re right next to One Stop,” Assistant Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars Vijay Jacob said.

While students and faculty talked and got to know one another over food, international students shared their stories and struggles both from their home countries and at APU. One such student was junior applied exercise major Jonathan Prawiromaruto from Indonesia.

Born with a failed kidney, Prawiromaruto was sickly and handicapped through much of his childhood. He couldn’t play and run around like other children his age and his peers always treated him differently. He also struggled with feelings of shame, convinced he was burden on his family. But, he said to the gathered students and faculty, God was still faithful. It all came to a head one night a number of years ago.

“I can’t do it, my life is so dark. God, where are you?” Prawiromaruto said, recalling what he had thought that night. “If you take my life tonight, it’ll be better than having to live tomorrow.”

He then went on to tell how his mother gave him a kidney, helping him live on and recover. He worked to overcome his handicap, developing a passion for soccer that would lead him to play semi-professionally.

Ultimately, he concluded that the difficulties he went through allowed him to appreciate God’s blessings in his life even more. He has even written a now-published book about his experiences called “Creator’s Dream Thesis: The Kidney Story.”

“Will you appreciate the sun if there aren’t clouds sometimes and you have to live in the cold?” Prawiromaruto said.

Junior sociology major DooRhee Lee, an international student from South Korea, said the open house was a great idea and he appreciated hearing stories from other international students.

“There’s something really special and unique about being an international student. We all kind of share the feeling of homesickness,” Lee said. “It was pretty encouraging to hear these stories. I really enjoyed it.”

ISS Assistant Director Vijay Jacob said they really wanted students to realize the vastly different students and cultures present at APU.

“A part of being a host culture is really taking the time to stop and really welcome those who are from different countries,” Jacob said. “When you think international, don’t just think international students only, think about how you’re bridging culture here on this campus.”

Senior nursing major Cakra Panaroma, an international student from Indonesia, spoke at the open house and said he hopes more American students will visit the international center. He thought the open house was a good way to help that happen.

“It was really interesting,” Panaroma said. “I like it and I want this to happen at least once a year.”