University of Wisconsin-Stout retiree Sue Foxwell talked with five international students recently during a conversation hour on campus.
“Your English is very good,” said Foxwell, who is retired from UW-Stout research administration. “You’re doing really well.”
Foxwell and the students talked about their families, travel and what they do for fun during the conversation hour held from noon to 1 p.m. on Fridays through Aug. 9 at Harvey Hall.
Laughter fills the air around rooms 40 and 41 as conversations take place between volunteers and 43 students visiting from South Korea and Japan.
“I just enjoy meeting students of their age and hearing their perceptions of the country and their country,” Foxwell said. “I enjoy meeting them as individuals. It’s a good opportunity to get out of your own space.”
The conversations are part of the Summer in the Midwest and the English as a Second Language Institute. Summer in the Midwest, which started last year, has 36 students from South Korea and seven Japanese students.
Students with the Summer in the Midwest will share about their cultures at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, at the Raw Deal, 603 S. Broadway St. The free event is open to the public.
“Our numbers have just about doubled from last year,” said Scott Pierson, director of the Office of International Education. “When the students have a positive experience, they are our best marketers. ... Our hope is it will continue to grow. We want our program to be as diverse as possible.”
The Japanese students are from Trident College of Design in Nagoya, Japan. They started the Summer in the Midwest program July 15 and will continue until Aug. 17.
The South Korean students arrived June 30 and will be in the program until Sunday, July 28.
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They are from Sangmyung University’s Seoul and Cheonan campuses.
While at the Summer in the Midwest students travel in the area, go to local retail shops, restaurants and attend community events to experience the U.S. culture.
Heeju Jang, a first-year student at Sangmyung studying public administration, said she loves to learn about other cultures and languages. “In Korea, it is hard to meet people who are fluent in English,” she noted. “We can experience the culture, the food and learn.”
Jang said UW-Stout has a larger footprint than her university. She has found Menomonie residents to be friendly and kind.
Fellow Sangmyung student Sangha Lee, a junior studying public administration, said she wanted to experience a trip while she was in college.
“When I was in elementary school, I always wanted to study abroad in an English-speaking country,” she noted. “I was happy I got an opportunity to be here. People here are so kind. I ride my bike to school, and everyone says hello. That was so impressive to me.”
She enjoys the conversations on Fridays because she gets a chance to meet new people from UW-Stout and the community. “We can talk about a variety of things like culture, family and food,” she said. “That is so interesting.”
Margee Stienecker, a part-time tutor in the ESL Institute, said she enjoys the conversational opportunities with the students. “I think when you interact one on one with people from other countries it broadens your perspective,” she said.
“It enriches your life. I think it is beneficial for the students as well to have people of different ages and experiences interact with them.”