Concordia University's International Center staff is going the extra mile to ensure that 57 international students still residing on campus have everything they need to not only continue their education, but stay engaged with their classmates while maintaining mandated social distancing.
Innovative ideas include learning together how to order online from area restaurants and stores, crafts they can pick up and complete in their rooms, individual Zoom meetings with students concerning visa questions, and social media posts with virtual museum tours, cooking shows and amusement park rides. Staff also devised a “Quarantine Challenge” scavenger hunt around campus with gift cards from area restaurants as prizes that in turn help the struggling restaurants.
Thirty nine of the students still on campus are from China because of a dual degree partnership with Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College that began in fall 2017. The first partnership with an American university approved by The Chinese Ministry of Education, the program enables students to earn their BS degree in rehabilitation science spending their junior year at Concordia.
The remaining 18 students unable to return home are from South Korea and several African countries, according to Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Dr. David Birner. A number of Middle Eastern students are now residing with host families in the area.
In late February, a “Wish You Well” effort by CUW students and administrators sent a message of support to the Shanghai college, as a number of students planning to come for the spring semester could not travel because of government restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“All of our international students still on campus are doing quite well,” said Birner, “in part because their fellow students in Shanghai have been on lockdown for two months. Most of them seem to be taking this in stride.”
“Our staff has been doing an amazing job of creating ways to keep students involved with staff and each other,” added Birner, while lauding Kelsey Marquardt, international admissions and retention coordinator; Amanda Reitz, director of international recruitment and retention; Charlotte Shih, coordinator of student programs in the Asia Pacific; Robin Kuzu, international student advisor; and Margaret Leimkuehler, study abroad program coordinator.
Reitz has been coming to the office with bags of groceries for students several times a week from a local Asian market. “Our international students always come first for us,” said Marquardt, “and we’re here to love them, engage them, and serve them with Christ-like hearts and hands. Their safety is our number one priority.”
“Dr. Birner told us this is what we are here to do – train future leaders to handle crises like this and build communities that cross borders,” Marquardt noted.
Concordia University Wisconsin has the fourth largest international student population of any Wisconsin university with 326, according to a fall 2019 report by The Institute of International Education.
For more information on Concordia’s international program, visit www.cuw.edu/international.
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