"International Connections" Series Brings the World to MacMillan Hall
Miamians who want to connect with others from a specific country, region, heritage or language are invited to attend the International Connections series happening throughout the semester.
When you're far from home, meeting a friendly person from your country or region can make the distance more manageable. And even if you're not very far from home, making friends with people from a particular region, country, or heritage might lead to a future study abroad experience—or even a way to reconnect with one's ancestry.
The staff of International Student and Scholar Services was regularly hearing from students and community members who wanted lists of people from a certain country or region so they could get together. For privacy reasons, it was not possible to give out that information. Yet the staff recognized the value of students being able to meet other students through some shared cultural or regional connection.
So Dan Sinetar, assistant director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), found a way to make that connection happen at the International Student Center in MacMillan Hall.
Sinetar instituted the International Connections series to bring people together in meetups. "It was quite a challenge to figure out how to host these kinds of events, because in our community some countries are represented by 100+ students, some by dozens and some by just a few," he said. "We thought the best way to 'divide the world,' so to speak, and include everyone in our community, would be to base these events on regions: Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, North Africa, Africa, North Africa, Middle East, South American and North America."
Sinetar found that it was tricky to place every country into regions, so he recognizes that there is some overlap. "Also, it can be difficult to get the message out to those who may have traveled to a country, have a familial connection to a place, or just have an interest in that location," he said.
But the message is definitely getting out. So far, more than 50 students from around a dozen countries have attended the first three events (Southeast Asia, East Asia and South Asia). Sinetar describes the vibe as low key. "Even though we have some games and activities, most attendees have been happy to just chat and meet new and old friends," he said.
As with most social events, the opportunity to sample delicious snacks and drinks is a plus. "It's great to see some students get a nostalgic taste from back home and other students find a new favorite treat," said Sinetar. "We are all about trying a variety of flavors in the International Student Center, so if anyone has a recommended snack from outside the U.S., let us know."
Sinetar expects to continue to iterate and pursue events that provide an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of Miami students while also providing an inclusive space to share and better understand/appreciate these differences.
"I think students who attend these events appreciate the opportunity to not only meet others who share a culture, but also learn more about the cultures of their classmates," he said.
Events are held at the International Student Center, MacMillan 017 with breakout rooms across MacMillan Hall from 5:15-6:45 p.m. Activities and light refreshments will be provided. Attendees are also welcome to share a game, activity, info about another upcoming event, or other ways to stay connected.