The International Friends of Pittsburg (IFOP), an organization dedicated to welcoming numerous international students at Pittsburg State University, hosted a dinner at St. John Lutheran Church in Pittsburg to welcome the newest cohort of international students for the upcoming academic year at PSU.
Approximately 120 students from countries including Taiwan, India, and Finland, were invited to eat dinner with community members after their first day of orientation. Chicken, rice, vegetarian options, and desserts were offered during the meal.
“Our main mission as a community is to make the students feel welcome,” said Cynthia Pfannenstien, a member of the International Friends of Pittsburg. “We want them to know that we are appreciative that they are here and we want them to be happy here. This is a big change for them.”
The international students will have a variety of different meals planned throughout their orientation.
“A number of different community groups are always interested in making sure that we have a welcoming and friendly face for international students,” said Jorge Leon Jr, learning outreach librarian at the Axe Library. We know that it’s not easy, especially moving to a new country and we know that if the food is anything close to a home cooked meal, then we want to provide.”
IFOP has organized this meal for PSU international students since the 90s. and for some members like Ben Peters, treasurer of the International Friends of Pittsburg, he’s been involved directly for 20 years now.
“We always fix one meal; they have a couple days of orientation, and we fix one meal for them,” Peters said. “Then we will tell them about our program, so that if they are interested in getting to know Americans on a friendship basis, they can fill out an application. Then we get people who are interested in meeting them, then we get them together.”
This opportunity gives international students the chance to have the International Friends of Pittsburg pair them with other Pittsburg residents so they can get to know the United States with a friend.
“This is a way for them to get to know us a little better. It’s also a way for us to get to know them. And that’s a nice starting point in life,” Peters said.
Hedi Reunanen, graduate student in sports and business management from Finland, said she is also looking for “other opportunities” while in Pittsburg as well.
“I heard today that I get to choose whatever I want because I have the opportunity too,” Reunanen said. “Maybe more sports related stuff. Because I know the sports related stuff is big here. We were also discussing the American Football, that’s not a big thing in Finland so I really want to do some volunteer work around that, if possible.”
Opportunities range from academics to also other options offered in downtown and other areas of Pittsburg as well.
“There (are) more things that I can explore. They have many activities to do, its not so regular for us international students, (there’s) a lot of chances to do that,” said Hamyun Su, senior in communication and international student from Taiwan.