Video: Bridges Community Group at UF
A new community group was created by Bridges organization in Gainesville, Florida this semester in order to promote better communication between international students and American students.
The number of international students studying in the U.S. has been increasing in recent years.The University of Florida hosts more than 6,000 international students each year. However, it’s rare to see international students and American students hanging out.
Bridges is a national organization aiming to help international students get used to life in the U.S. It has been existing at UF for no more than two years.
“Bridges at UF seeks to bridge the gap between international students and American students at UF,” said Brianna Keen, the co-leader of Bridges at UF.
A new community group was created by Bridges at UF this semester. International and native students come to the group every Monday evening. They spend their time chatting, studying the bible, and making friends.
“When I started Bridges, one of the things I have been hoping for was to do a community group with international students — just have a time for international and American students to get together and study the Bible together,” said Chris Schrum, the director of Bridges at UF.
“I think the community group is a good way to have some consistency. I will see my friends every week at this time and at this place. It is a guarantee time for us to catch up. It is something we can invite people into, because that is part of the community atmosphere,” Keen said.
“I have heard about Bridges for all last year, and I was really curious of what it was about,” said Amara White, an undergraduate student from UF who lets students in Bridges community group use her living room as a weekly meeting point.
“Last semester, I was sitting in classes, and I realized how many international students there were in my class. I wondered how many people do come to them, talk to them, and be a friend of them,” White said.
At Bridges community group, not only international students have the opportunities to make native friends and know more about America, but also, native students learn a lot about other cultures.
“We try to have parties that celebrate holidays of other countries as well, like the Chinese New Year’s party. We didn’t plan the whole thing. We got international students to help us,” Keen said. “We don’t necessarily want to just invite them into American culture, because that is one element of it for them learn about our culture. We want them to know we want to learn about their culture, too.”
They even start a mini Chinese class. Every Wednesday and Friday, some of the American students in the group attend a Chinese class taught by Li Jiang, a UF graduate student from China.
Jiang said he was proud that those native students are willing to learn Chinese.
“It’s awesome. I have always wanted to tell more people about our culture, and I’m really glad that I met all these friends who are willing to learn about it. They are actually really devoted to it,” Jiang said.
Most international students in the group are from China. Everyone involved hopes the cultures get more diverse as times goes on.
“I would like to see people from all the different countries that are represented at UF coming to our events,” Keen said.