International Students and Scholars, Welcome!
Published by Sarah Chun
Dean of International Students and Scholar Services
I opened my email one Friday morning and read that a student from Kenya finally received his student visa since being admitted to Calvin Seminary over a year and a half ago. In the brief email, he writes “Have received the visa today. Thanks a lot for your prayers. I will be booking my traveling. I will update. I hereby confirm my coming!”
In the next few days, the housing director, the registrar, and others prepared for his arrival. With the help of two current international students who rented a car to pick up the new student at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, he miraculously arrived at Calvin Seminary just six days after sending that original email to me.
A few months later, I visited a student and his wife, both of whom are from South Korea. The purpose of the visit was to see how they were doing after the recent birth of fraternal twins. Upon entering the apartment, it is clear the couple is understandably exhausted from caring for their newborns. Out of concern for their well-being as they navigate parenthood, I ask them how everyone is adjusting to the growth in their family. They share that aside from lack of sleep, everyone is doing fine, especially since meals are being prepared and delivered to them for the next month. Not only this couple, but for anyone who has a baby or other medical needs, the Korean Student Association has what is called “Love Ministry” in which students sign up to prepare meals for those in need.
These are two examples in which the international community at Calvin Seminary are doing life together and are nurturing a community of hospitality in serving one another. Other ways that international students significantly impact the community more broadly are through events such as the annual Christmas Around the World event where we celebrate unique cultures through food, song, stories, and fellowship and the Chinese New Year celebration organized by the Chinese students.
It is a blessing to be a part of this community where different languages are heard in the hallways, delicious aromas fill the Student Center, and exchange of different cultures is shared among us. When I began my work at Calvin Seminary in 2012, international students made up a third of the total student population. Since then, there has been an increase of international students which now make up more than 40% of the community. The growth of the number of Chinese-speaking students and the online programs have greatly contributed to the increase. In addition, the Visiting Scholar Program, which invites scholars from around the world for a time of focused scholarship and learning, has also grown immensely in the last few years.
The influx of international students has led to a few new initiatives, including weekly conversation groups where students have an opportunity to speak English in a small group setting led by a facilitator and discuss interesting cultural and theological topics.
In addition, Calvin Seminary launched the International Student Advisory Board with the purpose of providing leadership opportunities for international students, addressing the various needs of this student group, and promoting fellowship among the community. The presence of international students and scholars at Calvin Seminary greatly enhances the community as a whole as we experience the “globalness” of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
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