International Student Fellowship being more involved this semester


Photo by Sofiya Melnychuk

International Student Fellowship members take a picture together during one of the organization’s events.

Hadel Abdelkarim, Reporter

International Student Fellowship is trying to be more active this school year.  

The organization aims to help international students with any essentials they need, which includes transportation. They also put together events and take international students on trips, like to the city of St. Louis, to see what’s around and to be involved.  

Members can ask any questions they might have and gain help and guidance for anything they need. Some students in the organization consider ISF a family far from home.  

Rich Heter is one of the volunteers for ISFHe has been volunteering for 13 years and is in charge of transportation and helps pick up students and take them wherever they need to go.  

“When a student needs to go somewhere, they text me or call me, and I either take them or I make arrangements for somebody else to pick them up and take them,” Heter said.  

ISF helps provide transportation and anything else necessary that the students may need. There are events held for the students to come together and get to know one another, and gatherings at the volunteers’ homes as well.  

“Our main purpose of existence is to provide a home away from home for our international students and those who seek that,” Heter said.  

“We probably have 600 international students on campus, and we ISF touch 30-40. We try to provide an atmosphere where they feel comfortable; we invite them to our homes, and we have meals occasionally, we have game nights, movie nights.”

Although it has been hard to do some of these things due to COVID, ISF has been able to do more things this year like “Having Dinner with the Americans,” now called “Welcome to the Family Dinner.”  

“The day after classes started, we had a welcome event over at the pavilion. We had roughly 60 students turnout for that. Since then, we had a picnic at the Creve Core Park, and that was city-wide. We had students from five different campuses attend,” Heter said.  

“We had what we used to call ‘Dinner with the Americans.’ We open up a dozen or half a dozen homes and volunteers to have students in their home to give the students a feel for what American culture in a home life looks like.”

Bianca Sa, a junior from Brazil, has been involved with ISF since 2019. Sa enjoys getting to know people and their different cultures and has a better connection with students who are from different cultures.  

“My favorite part is the friendships, just getting to know different cultures. I love different cultures, I love talking to people who have different backgrounds, like different upbringings,” Sa said.

“Honestly, I feel like I connected better with international students. I don’t know why I love Americans, I love the American culture, but I think that just because of the fact that international students are all in the same boat. And there’s a deeper level of understanding between us.”

ISF has been a big help to Sa by making her feel safe and that she has another family here. The organization allows its members to meet new people, grow, and the volunteers help make them feel more welcome and that they’re not alone.  

“ISF is a safe place that you can just ask for help. You never feel alone, you have support. The culture in ISF is where it allows you to meet so many different cultures and you grow from that. I cannot even explain how much my mentality grew just by talking to other people who are from different cultures,” Sa said.  

Another student who is involved in this organization is Alisa Ax, who is from Germany. She has been in ISF since she first started college. 

“From the first day I arrived here, somebody from ISF picked me up from the airport. That’s how I got into the group from the first day,” Ax said.  

Ax’s favorite part about the organization is that it’s like a family far from home, and you can always ask anyone questions.  

“It’s like a family far from home if you need help or you don’t know about stuff here because America is different than our home. So, we all have questions about stuff, which is normal for Americans, so we can always ask them or tell them something. You can always reach out to them, it’s like a family far from home that is the best part, and you meet a lot of other friends there too,” Ax said.  

Ax would have never expected an organization like ISF before coming here. She thinks it’s a really great program that is provided for international students.  

“I never thought the beginning that I will get that close. They also invite us to their homes for dinner, and it’s so cool, really, it’s so personal, and they really care about us and ask how you are and if they can help us. It’s really like a family far from home that is great. I never expected that before I came here,” Ax said.