By Amanda Thorogood
Imagine being immersed into an array of different cultures, different languages and different customs. Imagine eating breakfast with someone from England and lunch with someone from China.
“It’s the 21st century and the world is in our backyard,” explained Dr. Linda Materna, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Materna is referring to the International Community that will be moving in to the first floor of Gee Hall in the fall semester. Currently, there is a similar project underway that brings Rider students together with international students, but the project is getting a makeover.
“I personally can’t think of a more exciting and culturally and linguistically productive experience than getting to know students from around the world, learning their cultures, [and] making, perhaps, lifetime friends through this living experience,” Materna said.
Everything, from the students who will be living in the rooms, to the activities planned for its residents and the dorm’s appearance, is being revamped.
“This idea has been under discussion for a number of years in the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department,” Materna said. “This initiative is part of the University’s new ‘internationalization initiative,’ which we expect to launch this coming fall.”
The eagerness of students to get involved has surpassed expectations and currently all available spots have been filled, although Amjad Abdo, area director at Rider, encourages interested students to contact him to be waitlisted in the possibility that any spots are made available.
Along with current Rider students, students from China, South Africa, France, India, Austria and Malaysia have been assigned rooms for the fall.
“We did not offer any incentives,” Abdo said. “We focused on creating this unique experience, which the students have responded well to.”
Students will move into a newly renovated Gee Hall once the time comes to unpack for fall.
“All rooms will have new furniture and paint, in addition to bathroom renovations, as well as new lounge furniture and new hallway paint and carpet,” said Dr. Stephane Natan, assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
A host of events are planned for the students to bridge the cultural gaps and help unite the young people from around the world.
“We have done multiple activities this year [that will be repeated],” Abdo said. “We did our famous theme nights, which focused on learning about a specific culture/country and enjoying the delicious food. We also have gone on a trip to visit Philadelphia and the different museums and historical sites.”
The first floor of Gee Hall accommodates 28 students, and room selection for the International Community was done by allowing Rider students to have the choice of selecting their own roommate or opting to live with one of the new international students.
“For Rider students, this will give them the opportunity to learn about different cultures and make friends from around the world,” Abdo said. “For the international students, it will be a great opportunity to get to know the American culture and improve their English language skills. This community will also help the International Students with their transition into the U.S.”
The University will join college campuses across the United States with the addition of an International Community.
“Rider owes it to our students to create a little bit of that world right here on our campus to prepare our students for citizenship in the global village,” said Materna.