Spring09
Serrano Pichard

Jiniva Serrano and Anthony Pichardo de la Cruz prepare for their weekly radio show, Sabor Latino, in the KHSU studio.

LISTENERS OF KHSU, HUMBOLDT State’s public radio station, have been getting a rare treat on Sunday afternoons—Sabor Latino, the only place to catch selections of Latin music in Spanish, indigenous languages, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Basque and more.

On the Friday before their show airs, HSU international students Anthony Pichardo de la Cruz, of the Dominican Republic, and Jiniva Serrano, of Panama, are in the studio slicing and dicing their favorite music into a two-hour program that shares a bit of their culture with Humboldt.

As the pair gets ready to tape their show, Serrano’s laptop streams a collection of Latin music from all over the world. This week Pichardo is excited about sharing something different with his audience. "I found a lot of Latin music from France. I love the accent so I’m going to study the language next semester."

For Pichardo, this is an ideal move for a career he hopes will take him to the heights of hotel management. "The classes I’m taking here in Travel Industry Management will help me with my career goals. The English language skills will help me greatly, but so will the French," he says.

But how did these two end up hosting a show, instead of intently listening in to fine-tune their English?

"We were taking a speech class with Susan Dobie from the Communications Department and one day she brought us to KHSU for a field trip. We were just getting to know how it all works and we got to record our voices. Then they said ‘We have a Spanish show and the girl who did it just left.’ So we went through the training and we were the only two who made it through," explains Serrano.

It became a way for Serrano and Pichardo to provide a community service, which is required by their U.S. State Department study abroad program. For the North Coast and campus community, it’s another reminder of the gifts a growing international student population can offer.

At Humboldt State, the number of international students has ballooned to 138, up from less than 35 as little as five years ago. And that’s good for everybody, say campus officials.

a two way street

HSU HAS BEEN WORKING for years to globalize the campus. It has been able to bring an increasing number of students to the United States and has been hosting events like International Education Week. The effort is now paying off, with the international student population quadrupling in five years.

The long-term goal is to keep expanding the International Programs Office into a full-blown International Resource Center, which would serve as a clearinghouse for all international programs and services for students and faculty.

"So many of these students are away from their very tightly knit families for the first time," says Marci Fradkin, coordinator for the International Programs Office. "Our main thing is student support so they feel like they have a home here. But beyond that we're here to facilitate all the various groups on campus to find ways to internationalize themselves, either through exchange programs, bringing students here from abroad or just experiencing some of the fun that the international students have on campus."

Where this experience really becomes a two-way street is in the International House in the Creekview Residence Halls. Set up as a multicultural encounter, the hall is made up of a mix of international and U.S.-born students.

"With the International House we assist in the recruiting and retention of international students," says Nick Sweeton, coordinator of Residence Life in HSU's Housing department. "We provide a space in the residence halls with a 50/50 mix of international and regular students. We focus on social activities like trips to the Bay Area, cultural movie showings and even a Thanksgiving celebration in which we not only bought a turkey, but ingredients for the international students to make dishes that are important in their cultures."

"We're always hearing about international students becoming great friends not just with each other but with American students, as well. And these are people who would normally never meet under any circumstances except at Humboldt State," says Fradkin

right here if you want it

Inst Group

Clockwise from left: Chinese student Jian Li, center, hangs out with American students Lauren Sanchez, left, and Marcos Naranjo on HSU’s annual Day of Caring. Several international students participated in the campus’s community service day. | Students enjoy a moment in the J, the campus’s main dining hall. From left, Jiniva Serrano, from Panama; Marie Mourougaya, from France; and Adja Gbane, of the Cote d’Ivoire. | Linlin Xing, from China, grabs a bite to eat on campus. | A student takes notes during class.

DURING NOVEMBER'S INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION Week the campus was full of cultural programs from Indonesia, Japan, Panama, Spain and beyond. Events like Oodles of Noodles brought together people from far flung nations to share their culture's take on the versatile pasta, while an international fashion show put the traditional garb of the world on display.

But the week was about more than costumes and cuisine; it was also a way to present practical steps that students, faculty and staff could take to gain a global perspective.

As Fradkin puts it, "You don't have to travel abroad to get the international experience. It's right here if you want it."

To that end, the Peace Corps gave presentations on volunteering oversees, the Fulbright organization held informational meetings and even the U.S. Post Office made an appearance to help people navigate the passport process.

In a panel session, six students from China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan held forth on the advantages and trials of being so far away from home. The first question lobbed at the panel was about their best day in America. Probably the most illuminating response came from Cheng Du, a biology student participating in HSU's Intensive English Language Institute and the 1+2+1 degree program. "It's hard to say what my best day has been, every day is so interesting," he said. But his optimism was in direct opposition to his appearance. He was clutching his wrist, which had been freshly treated by the campus Student Health Center following an overzealous performance on the soccer field. Cheng had also lightly injured himself, as he put it, "goofing off" in the residence halls. In a video-chat session with his family his new injuries alarmed his mother, but he assured her that everything was okay. "I told my mom I'm just trying new things," he said.

Such chat sessions seem to be a common feature in international student life. Programs like Apple's iChat, Microsoft's MSN Messenger, Yahoo Chat and many others are making the distances back home almost negligible for these students. "When I am feeling low, I can just turn on Yahoo and chat with my brothers and sisters," explains Ria Sumartikah from Indonesia. "I chat with my mother almost every week."

Maintaining the link back to the home country is important, but the international students are also busy forming bonds in Humboldt. Jiniva Serrano, the KHSU DJ, fills her time with activities across campus. In addition to finding new Latin music from around the world to air on her radio show, "she's already signed up with the Gamma Alpha Omega sorority and has gone way past her 10-hour service requirement with the World Learning program," says Karynn Merkel, administrative support assistant for the International Programs Office. "Jiniva has made some solid connections that will last well beyond her time here." End Story

Globe Trekking Recruiter

Dr. Guy-Alain Amoussou, director of HSU's International Programs, is involved in the academic lives of an ever-growing number of international students. As a native of Africa's Côte d'Ivoire, and as someone educated in both London and Paris and now living in Arcata, he knows better than most the advantages of bringing a global viewpoint to the classroom.

It's Simple, he says. "If you have a business class with students from the Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, India, and China, you're going to get more very different perspectives than you would in a class made up of only Americans."

In his years at HSU, Amoussou, who divides his time as a professor of Computing Science and director of International Programs, has helped grow the international student population by leaps and bounds and has worked to establish many new partnerships, including study abroad, with institutions all around the globe.

Best known of these ventures is the 1+2+1 dual degree program, a partnership with Xi'an International Studies University in China that provides opportunities for Chinese students to attend one year in China, two years in America and then return to China to finish their education, earning degrees from both HSU and their home university.

Amoussou's work also includes five National Science Foundation-funded projects including Research Experience for Undergraduates, The Science of Design, and Broadening Participation in Computing.

Amoussou is also at work finding ways to expand international research opportunities for HSU's faculty in an effort to further globalize their academic experience. "In 2009 I am taking a group of researchers to the west coast of Africa to look for scientific research opportunities," he says. One of the things we will look at is using computation tools for coastal management. If we can take what we have learned about managing the coasts around Humboldt Bay and translate that into something that works within other environments, then we will be able to validate these methods."

Dr. Guy-Alain Amoussou
HSU International Program Director