Since the start of the pandemic, the Office of International Programs has gone the extra mile—or several thousand—to ensure the success and inclusion of international students who could no longer be on campus. Office staff created unique study-abroad experiences in several cities and now, they’ve partnered with Alumni Relations to host three gatherings in China, “F&M Spring Reunions in China.”
“We wanted to provide an opportunity to reunite current and admitted students who have been unable to travel to Lancaster with alumni who are living and working in China for a casual gathering and networking opportunity,” said Alyssa Hostetter, international student services adviser.
The three events took place simultaneously on Saturday, April 3, in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, and were linked virtually via Zoom, so in-person attendees in all three cities could connect and wave hello. A total of 40 people attended in Shanghai, 18 people attended in Beijing, and 8 people attended in Shenzhen.
Sophomore Hidy Li was excited to hear that F&M was planning these events and was eager to participate. As a peer mentor for the Office of International Programs, Li was one of many F&M community members who helped organize the events.
“After coming back home to Beijing last June, my connection with F&M mostly exists on screens,” she said, adding that weekly Zoom meetings and emails can get tiring fast, especially with a 12-hour time difference. “For sophomores and first-year students in China who have never been to campus, it’s even harder to feel connected.”
For incoming first-year Jenny (Jiayun) Zhang, who will begin at F&M in the fall after deferring for a year due to the pandemic, the events were not only an opportunity to meet her future classmates and ask questions of friendly alumni. They also reassured her that she wasn’t forgotten.
“I was so worried that being a kind of special gap student that I would be forgotten or missed or something like that,” Zhang said. “So, with this event, I really felt that we are all here together and helping each other, and none of us will be left behind.”
Li said that after being virtual for so long, being able to talk to F&M community members face-to-face felt amazing. She added that prior to the event wrapping up, a few first-years and recently admitted members of the Class of 2025 approached her to say how much they enjoyed getting a taste of what it’s like to be a part of the campus community, something Sue Mennicke, associate dean for international programs, is eager to expand globally.
“It’s an exciting time for F&M and our expanding international reach,” Mennicke said. “The pandemic forced us to work with students in new ways this year and allowed us to further establish F&M as a truly global community. Our students are learning and participating in the F&M community from around the world, providing a vibrant and internationally sophisticated perspective. The stage is set for us to continue creatively building our unique international brand.”
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