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Vol State’s International Students’ Cultural Connections Club to become an official student organization in the spring

By Victoria Long

Volunteer State Community College’s growing International Students’ Cultural Connections Club hosted a Fall Mixer and Flag Commemoration meeting over Zoom Thursday, Oct 7. Future plans for the club’s establishment and adversity among international students were discussed. 

Diversity and Inclusion Manager Jeff King, English Professor Shirley Gomez and the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) coordinator, Karen Hutson, were among the event moderators.

Hutson introduced all students who were in attendance by asking them to state their name, country of origin and first language. The countries represented by international students in attendance were Egypt, Hungary, Cuba, Mexico City, Venezuela, Russia, Togo, Iraq, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Yemen, and Romania. Among the languages spoken by international students were Arabic, French, Turkish, Spanish, and Jamaican. 

Adviser Pedro Martinez, Professor Jaime Sanchez, Professor Ruth McKinzie, and Gomez were introduced as club advisers. King is the official club adviser. 

Gomez initiated discussion among international students with questions about personal struggles. “Cosmina, what would you say are some of the challenges you face as a student?” Gomez asked. 

“I guess it’s the different languages. We do learn English but there are some words or some concepts that we don’t understand,” said Cosmina Patrascu, a student who moved to the United States from Portugal. 

“What advice [do] you have for our newcomers, for those who are just starting, and also for us teachers?” Gomez asked Patrascu.

As for advice to international students, Patrascu said, “I know it’s not easy. Especially because a lot of us are coming from another country. We work at the same time we study, so I know it’s not easy to do both. Just don’t give up. In five years you’re going to be five years older. It will depend if you have a degree or if you just keep going like this and working normally. So, don’t give up and keep going working. It will be worth it in five years to have [a] degree and have a better life and a better chance of living.”

King directed the virtual flag commemoration by presenting a PowerPoint of country flag images and titles. 

The next club meeting is planned to take place before Thanksgiving break. King said this meeting will be scheduled soon and held over Zoom. The meeting will focus on learning more about member diversity and discussing the next steps for the club’s growth as a student organization at Vol State. 

“We are moving fast towards hopefully what will be a stand-alone, registered, chartered student organization for international students next spring,” said King. 

“If you feel like you don’t have the time to be a leader, still be participating in simple ways that you can because it lets your voice be heard,” said Hutson. 

Students can visit King in the Gallatin Campus Office of Diversity and Inclusion or contact the office by email to learn more about future meetings and participating in the club’s growth. 

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