Representing over 50 different countries on campus, international students make up between 12 and 13 percent of the student body population at Lawrence. As a result, the Lawrence International student organization continuously contributes activities and events throughout the year. LI‘s presence in our community reflects the diversity of our student body while encouraging cultures and traditions to be celebrated and shared.
According to junior Aimen Khan, student president of the organization, “LI started off with eight students as a collaboration between the international community and the American community.
“This initial mission still continues,” Khan stated. “It provides an opportunity for international students to portray their cultures to the American community at Lawrence.”
The organization also provides support for international students who may need help adjusting to an entirely new culture. Homesickness, Wisconsin winters, and the expectations of college are challenging for many students.
According to Tim Schmidt, the international students coordinator and LI advisor, a support system is very important for some students who “may have an ocean between them and their families.” Said Khan, “LI gives them the opportunity to get used to the different culture and form bonds with people who are going through the same thing.”
However, LI does not exist exclusively for international students. Khan emphasizes that “this is not just a group for international students; it’s very open to American students as well.”
Since the Lawrence community is in United States, students may not always consider the American culture’s inclusion in the international community. The United States is necessarily involved in international culture. Shared Khan, “LI wants American involvement. We can’t be international if we don’t involve the U.S. as well. We learn about American culture and [Americans] learn about ours.”
LI also works closely with International Student Services. Said Schmidt, “The idea [of LI] is to exchange ideas, to put together programming where cultures can be shared and increase the awareness that we have this vibrant international student body at Lawrence.”
In order to promote international unity and provide events for the enjoyment of all members of the Lawrence community, LI hosts a plethora of activities and community gatherings. These events are offered throughout the entire year and are open to everyone.
From smaller, more causal events to a culmination of culture at the International Cabaret in the spring, LI is always contributing to the Lawrence and Appleton communities. Khan explains, “There are tons of small events going on all the time, like pizza parties and barbecues.”
Additionally, LI hosts biweekly Friday meetings for any interested students. According to Khan, there are “general board meetings every other Friday at 5:30 in Andrew commons.” These meetings include event planning and give students opportunities and ideas for what they can do to take part in LI.
LI also sponsors ethnic dinners each year, which take place in the campus center. The next ethnic dinner will be hosted in November. According to Schmidt, some past themes of the ethnic dinners have been “the Silk Road, foods from the Americas and rice dishes from around the world.”
In addition to these events, LI also plans three larger occasions: fall and spring formals and the International Cabaret. The formals, which are “highly successful events,” said Khan, are held off campus in Liberty Hall. He also says that they are a “chance for students to get to hear and dance to international music” that they might not hear otherwise.
International Cabaret, which occurs in April during the third week of Spring Term, also exposes the Lawrence and Appleton community to the many different cultures represented by international students. Said Schmidt, Cabaret is a “big celebration of culture that invites people from all over the Fox Cities area.”
Cabaret is a gala of international performances, where students from around the world, including the United States, participate in different cultural performances. Some examples from last year’s International Cabaret featured hip-hop and Bollywood dances and a piano piece created by a Chinese composer.
The international student population enhances the entire Lawrence community. Schmidt says he “really enjoys working with international students, its great to get to know them. They make you look at the American culture in a different way, which helps us look more deeply into our own culture and see why we are who we are.”
LI provides a medium through which the Lawrence community can experience all of the different perspectives and cultures both international and American students contribute. As Schmidt says, “LI is for everyone. It gives them an opportunity to learn more.”