Eager, Affluent, Huddled Masses

International Students Welcome Picnic

There is a poem engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Liberty, which includes a famous phrase of welcome for immigrants: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It really is a beautiful sentiment capturing a significant pattern of migration in American history. Today, however, a fascinating migration pattern is happening in college towns all across the United States which might be better captured with a phrase such as, “Give me your eager, your affluent, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It might sound cynical to turn the phrase in that way. In fact, I confess that I can sometimes even feel that way, especially like the time I first discovered the lobby of a local bank filled on a Sunday afternoon with dozens of Chinese students, each opening new accounts and depositing thousands of dollars worth of cash into the new accounts in a capitalistic assembly line…

International Students at Chase Bank

Looking at the bigger picture, however, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there’s a lot of beauty, power, and potential in the thousands of international students who are just now settling in to study at Kent State University (and other universities across the United States). We really are getting many of the world’s best, brightest, and most-affluent citizens. Some of them are only here for four months; others are here for 6-8 years, working on advanced degrees. In any event, they come with a great eagerness to make new American friends and enjoy new American experiences.

Working in campus ministry, I see these international students as a highly strategic and fruitful mission field. So I’m really excited to be a part of organizations like International Friendship Connection and Kent State International Mentors. I’m really excited to help with organizing English Conversation Corners, where incoming international students can bone up on their English skills. I feel privileged to help with hosting the International Students Welcome Picnic, like we did this past weekend. And I’m really excited to provide the friendship and experiences that these international students are looking for.

In short, I’m glad to be in Kent at this time of the year — along with everyone else from around the world.

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