Word of mouth is what many small organizations on campus rely on to grow their communities, but in an ever-changing and fast-paced world, word of mouth cannot go further. This is a challenge that Bridges International, an interfaith Christian organization for international students in Iowa State, faces.
Bridges International is a national organization with more than 50 branches located at various colleges across the country which, according to Ryan Jensen, National Advisor and Local Campus Director for Bridges International, aims to uplift and serve international students in a practical way while being a spiritual resource. .
While many Americans may think Bridges International doesn’t apply to them, Jensen said Americans play an important role in the organization.
âWe really encourage Americans to partner with us and be a part of Bridges International becauseâ¦ it’s such a great experienceâ¦ for Americans to connect, get to know, and spend time with internationals. [students]”said Jensen.
According to Fengshuo Peng, an international graduate student from Iowa State who studies information systems and business analysis, Bridges International has been instrumental in his journey in Iowa State. This club includes international students, national students and community volunteers.
According to Peng, many American students don’t consider how difficult it is for international students to make friends, let alone friends that they feel comfortable, respected, and secure with. However, Peng said Bridges International has helped international students connect not only with their spirituality but also with a community of other students, both from the United States and beyond.
âYou feel like someone here really cares about you,â Peng said.
Jensen echoed Peng’s feelings.
âThe reality is that being an international student is really a challenge when English is not your first languageâ¦ If you are in a different place, like anyone who is moving to a new city and you feel like a stranger, imagine all those other layers [international students experience]”Jensen said.” We need Americans who really want … to be good friends with the international community so that they can learn. “
According to Peng, Bridges International offers many opportunities for students to get involved in the international community. One of these opportunities is the weekly âCoffee, Tea and Englishâ meetings. These meetings, which take place every Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Gerdin Business Building, give international students time to practice their English while creating friendships in a safe environment and a community of other students.
Another opportunity to get involved with Bridges International comes in the form of organizing meals for international students in American hostels.
âThe family group is just an opportunity for international students to come into an American home, have a meal together, and that’s where the spiritual resources come from. [come in]”Jensen said.” We have students who just want to learn more about the Bible. “
Jensen said the family group runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. every other Saturday. He also mentioned that all Bridges International organizations across the country will be attending the Vision conference in Baltimore in late December and early January 2022. At the conference, students will have the opportunity to meet new people, make new friendships. and to learn. on the Bible together.
Jensen also said that his main goal of being a part of Bridges International is to bless international students.
âWhat my wife and I really enjoy working with international students is that it allows us to be learners of the culture, learners of people, so that we can respect and care for our neighborsâ¦ honor your neighbors, love your neighbor, âJensen said.
More information about Bridges International can be found on their Iowa State Student Organization page, as well as on their national website and Facebook page.