Happy first week of classes! For those who’ve been here a semester or five, welcome back, and for those who are new to these halls, welcome! As relaxing as it can be to work in a quiet building between semesters, it’s nice to pass students and faculty faces.
While most between-semester times are especially quiet around here, the three weeks leading up to the start of the semester were a little busier for some of us at the College: A dozen high school students from Morocco (plus some student ambassadors from Fort Wayne and France) were on campus for a STEM (that’s “science, technology, engineering, math”) camp. In addition to their studies of biology, robotics, chemistry, and more on campus, the students got a taste of what life in America–and, specifically, Fort Wayne–is like: They learned how to play softball from the Snider High School girls’ softball team, they attended Homestead High School’s season opening football game, they went on their first roller coasters at Cedar Point and, just before their flight took off from O’Hare International Airport, they shopped the magnificent mile in Chicago.
And they formed some pretty great bonds. To get from campus to their hotel and the myriad tours and events, employees volunteered to play bus driver. You’ve never driven a minivan until it’s been full of seven foreign teenagers shouting and laughing to each other in Arabic, dancing and singing along to Kesha on 95.1.
A number of students expressed their desire to live and study in the United States. Many will begin their senior year of high school next month, and my fingers are crossed some find their way to Ivy Tech. I had an hour to kill on one outing, and a student, named Othmane, came with me to wander Target for goodie bags for the students. He told me everyone loved Oreos, and I introduced him–and the other students–to Rolos, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, York Peppermint Patties.
“Do you like them?”
“Oh yes,” he said, smiling.
“And that’s why everyone in America is overweight. It’s all good.”
He told me about Moroccan cuisine and Moroccan government. I learned that Morocco has a king who appoints an elected prime minister. The country has freedom of the press, but not freedom of speech. Though it is a small country, Moroccans don’t often travel to neighboring countries. In my mind, when countries are small, its citizens cross borders as easily as Hoosiers can into Ohio or Michigan. But the country doesn’t have close ties to its neighboring countries, so Moroccans would need to get a visa each time they traveled.
I shared with Othmane that I loved to travel, and he seemed surprised.
“Why would you leave?” he asked, “America has everything. If I lived here, I’d never leave.”
The camp was part of a partnership between the College and the European Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship Education, one the center’s director wants to continue. At the farewell reception for the students, he shared his hope for having 50 students come next year.
We’re going to need a bigger bus. Maybe with an in-car DJ.
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