International students, English-language teachers and Cornell Campus Club members celebrated the 60th anniversary of the club's International Hospitality Committee with a birthday bash April 26 in Anabel Taylor Hall's One World Room.
The event featured a dish-to-pass luncheon, singing and a dramatic reading by English as a Second Language (ESL) students and a performance by historian and folk singer Richard Polenberg of songs and stories from the life and music of Pete Seeger. Korean ESL student Clara Lee also spoke about how the experience in the program has enriched her life over the past three years.
The idea of forming hospitality groups for international students began in 1948 with Bernice Turk, wife of professor of animal science Kenneth Turk, M.S. '31, Ph.D. '34. The initiative had a simple goal: "The Campus Club group interested in hospitality to foreign students tries to see that no foreign student leaves Cornell without having been invited to a faculty home."
Activities over the years have included suppers for foreign students and friendship groups for international wives, clothing exchanges, temporary housing for emergency arrivals, concern for housing conditions and home hospitality. A program of English language classes began in 1964-65; the classes have helped international visitors make friends, feel at home and learn more about Ithaca and Cornell. Students go on field trips to Cornell Orchards, Sapsucker Woods, the Sciencenter, the Johnson Museum and other sites. Friendship groups for international women also meet monthly.
The ESL program (promoted by the International Students and Scholars Office) offers 12 conversation classes each semester, and are open to the spouses and partners of international students and to postdocs and visiting scholars. Volunteer teachers include Campus Club members and Cornell students and employees.
"Learning a language is incredibly hard work, and I have such respect for the energy that my students put into this effort," ESL teacher Kathy Sholtys said. "A number of students in my classes have gotten together outside of class; one group even met off and on for a year after our class was over. That experience reinforced my belief that wherever we live, we need to be connected to people and the community."
Also, the International Friendship Partners program allows individual students to make connections with local families and share in such family activities as dinners, celebrations and trips to the gorges. The program is now recruiting families to participate. If you are interested in connecting with a visiting international student, contact Gwen Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org.