By Evangeline Ciupek
Colorful flags from different countries lined the Walton Chapel stage behind a glass podium and two microphones. The President of Cross Cultural Cru, Viktoria Meadows, walked up to introduce International Chapel. Suddenly a microphone fell out of its holder and landed with a loud “thunk” on the podium. She smiled.
“Hi, I’m Viktoria Meadows, and I break microphones,” she said.
The students laughed.
Cross Cultural Cru, an international organization, hosted chapel this month.
Director of International Student Services, Elizabeth Tanaka, said 15 countries are represented by 59 enrolled international students.
“Our biggest group is from China and after that Taiwan and after that India,” she said.
There are also students from Morocco, Nigeria, the Bahamas and Kenya, to name a few.
Last year at International Chapel, sophomore from Malaysia, Wan Juin Tan, performed a Chinese Kung Fu sword dance. This year, she gave the students a glimpse of her spiritual journey.
Tan met God at UMHB.
“I was so nervous when I first got here. Everything was so new. But then I became a Christian, and everything became better, easier, and everything made sense. I never felt nervous again. Everyone is here for me, and God is here for me all the time.”
Since her sword dance in chapel a year ago, Tan has started a Chinese Kung Fu organization on campus.
“I feel like I’m so involved, and now UMHB really became my school. Not only the school I go to in Texas, but the school I belong to,” she said.
When she was considering coming to Texas, the first thought that came to her mind was the Texas stereotype of cowboys riding horses on the prairie.
“I was wondering if I needed to learn how to ride a horse,” Tan said.
Following her testimony, the audience played a trivia game. The international students asked questions that pertained to their countries. Students learned that the estimated inflation rate in Zimbabwe is five billion percent. In Kenya, people rent swimsuits when they go to the beach. And South Korean vendors sell duck bok yi just as New York vendors sell hot dogs.
Business administration and management major, Jane Zhang, arrived in the U.S. this semester. She is from Beijing, China, and volunteered during the Beijing Olympics. As it is for most first-year students, her English as a Second Language courses consume her time.
“I only study ESL. If I can’t finish it, I can’t begin my original classes. So I must finish it first. I don’t have a lot of time to miss the things in China. I chat with my parents everyday on MSN,” Zhang said.
She also gets support from students.
“In our lives, we have our RAs to help us. We can ask them a lot of things we can’t understand or we don’t know how to deal with. They can help,” Zhang said.
Also new this semester, Suzie Tang from China came to Belton because of her cousin.
Tang said her cousin’s mother told her that English is a useful career and wanted her to go to UMHB with a relative.
Tanaka said students can be like a support group for the new international students who arrive.
“I like my job because I lived abroad myself, and I was the recipient of many acts of kindness, and so I really feel blessed that I’m able to turn around and make somebody else’s international experience a little bit easier.”
Cross Cultural Cru’s offices are located in the York House across from the police station and two doors down from Heard. The organization would like American students to play a bigger role.
Tanaka hopes people in chapel saw the connections international students share with American students.
“It’s always good to remind people that God’s not American, and He doesn’t just speak English.”
Meadows was born in Venezuela. She is a cell biology and Spanish double major. She is not considered an international student, but that doesn’t stop her from getting involved.
Meadows said, “I have a huge interest in … anything international whether it be people or cultures.”