Heat waves are hardly the hottest thing coming to Centre County this summer. This month, the Penn State and State College communities welcome the largest influx of internationals during the academic year. About 1,500 international students arrived in Happy Valley over the past two weeks. Viewing international students as an important part of the local community, Global Connections works closely with the university to welcome and orient new internationals by assisting in check-in, moving, welcome meals and tours. In the years to come, many international students will find themselves involved with Global Connections over and over again as they seek cultural engagement opportunities and make efforts to be integrated into American culture.
Global Connections is a community-based nonprofit organization committed to promoting intercultural interaction and understanding. As one of the largest organizations of its kind in the U.S. that works across the campus border, Global Connections serves both students/scholars and local residents unaffiliated with the university. With deep connections with local communities, Global Connections offers rich opportunities of intercultural engagement for people from all cultural backgrounds, Americans included.
Originally named “International Hospitality Council,” this organization started 55 years ago as a volunteer-only community organization with only one program. Today, it has grown into an important local civic force that runs a dozen programs/events (International Children’s Festival, Women’s International Night, Found in Translation, English Language Classes) and offers a wide range of services (translation, interpretation, etc.) to thousands of individuals and organizations in Centre County. Two of Global Connections’s largest programs are:
▪ The Conversation Partners Program, which matches a native English speaker with one or several international speaker(s) for the purpose of informal language practice.
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▪ The International Friendship Program, which pairs an international person or family with an American host or family (no housing involved) for cultural exchange.
For local residents, Global Connections offers exciting opportunities to learn about and experience authentic aspects of other cultures. Examples include:
▪ The International Speakers Program brings international speakers into local classrooms, organizations and businesses to share their cultures.
▪ Cultural Luncheons showcase cuisines from all over the world through delicious food and entertaining cultural presentations.
All Global Connections programs and services are made possible by volunteers who have not only benefited from their involvement with Global Connections but also given selflessly to the organization. Our door is always open to those who are interested in achieving enriched cultural living for themselves and others. Please consider volunteering for Global Connections or attending an event. Find out more about us by visiting www.gc-cc.org or calling 863-3927.
Sharon Shen is the executive director at Global Connections.