An inside view of the intercultural freshman group
By Abigail Foster
“I’ve been to 16! Who can top that?” A freshman girl, confident of her superior experiences abroad, issued the challenge with a smirk on her face.
Shouting from across the room, one student decided to regulate the competition by clarifying a rule, “Are we including airports or not? This makes a difference!”
“30! Steven has been to 30 different countries!” The silence of the abandoned Grille dining room was broken by the laughter of a jubilant group of intercultural students. After the group’s approval, Steven earned the title of having been the most accomplished traveler in the group–a position of very high esteem.
Dressed in cool black jeans and killer wedges, Leticia Julian pushed a loose curl behind her ear and spoke of feeling like a mother to her international group, “Even though, I’m pretty sure some of them are older than me.” Julian laughed.
The group flocked around her like ducklings following a mother goose, relying on her to lead them to sit at a specific table in the Grille. It is evident how much they value her leadership and companionship. This year’s freshman student intercultural group bonds over their differences and share in the uniqueness of their situations.
Julian, a missionary kid (MK) from Congo, experienced transitioning into Asbury herself, so she feels that she can relate to the difficulties that some group members have faced entering into Asbury’s culture. “It’s hard to adjust once you’ve grown up in another culture and coming back to a culture that’s supposed to be yours but that you’re not used to,” she said.
Acting as a mentor for the new students, Julian will answer any questions or help them with a need, even though not all of the members of the group are MKs. Some are natives of Argentina, China and France, among other countries.
Hudson Ensz, an MK from the city of Menaus in Brazil, has experienced “a clash of cultures” his entire life. Sporting a Brazil soccer jersey, Ensz explained that he has found some of his best friends through the intercultural orientation program. He finds that he can “relate more to the people in this group because they have tasted a second culture, and they recognize the strengths and problems of American culture.”
While most Asbury students choose to escape campus dining options on Friday nights, the intercultural orientation group ends the school week by sharing a meal together. We sat around three tables pushed into a triangular formation in the Grille. Only half of the members were present, but that did not mean that the group lacked in conversation or liveliness. “We eat every meal together,” said Jaina Ruch while smiling at the presence of her dear friends. But Fridays are the official weekly meeting set by the group’s leaders, Leticia Julian and Brian Garret.
After receiving our orders, the greasy American dinner sparked debate about where the best McDonald’s were located in the world. The group reached a consensus that the American McDonald’s was not as good as the chain’s overseas locations. This agreement sparked further discussion about the food at Asbury. Some labeled the food as “too bland” and “too greasy.”
It’s easy to tell that this group shares a deep bond from the way they share their lives with each other. Having a support system helps when family could be thousands of miles away. “Some still get homesick; even I still do. But they have spread out and made friends,” Julian said. “This group has helped them with this transition.”
Sandra Gray, Asbury’s president, once hosted the intercultural group in her home for a dinner.
Most of the group members attended the event and were able to feast on chicken pot pie and salad along with bread that was baked by Gray’s husband. Some of the girls in the group, after finding the main restroom to be occupied, were led by Sandra Gray’s husband to use their personal restroom that was attached to their master bedroom. The girls took selfies in the mirror to document the moment.
The members of the group belong to their separate T.A.G. groups that were also formed during the week of new student orientation. One may assume that this would lead to divided attention among the groups, but this is not the case. When our meal was finished, there wasn’t the unfamiliar and slightly awkward “See you next week at T.A.G. dinner;” only chatter about their weekend activities that they had planned together. Julian said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if, when they graduated, they are still really close friends.”