Shana Ma, who’s from Inner Mongolia, China, is teaching Chinese at local schools this year as part of Western Kentucky University’s Confucius Institute.
But because she doesn’t have a car, she hasn’t been able to see many places in Bowling Green, she said. That changed Friday, when she was driven around town and introduced to an Asian market, which she said she plans to frequent from now on.
Ma said Bowling Green is a beautiful city, and she appreciates the opportunity to live here for a year soaking in American culture and learning about the education system.
“It is totally a wonderful experience for me to try everything,” she said.
Ma was one of about a dozen WKU international scholars and students who toured Bowling Green on Friday with members of Living Hope Baptist Church and staff of WKU’s International Student and Scholar Services.
It was the last of several ISS-sponsored activities this week that helped orient international students to campus and Bowling Green.
About 140 new international students will begin classes at WKU on Monday, and the ISS offered orientation activities to help them prepare, according to Sarah Van Alebeek, international student and scholar adviser.
The orientation prepares students for classes as well as life in the U.S., Van Alebeek said. They learn about the services available on campus and answer questions they might not even know to ask.
“We try to give them a network of support,” Van Alebeek said.
It welcomes students to campus and Bowling Green and helps them connect to the community, she said.
“We try to make the campus feel smaller so they know where to go and who to talk to,” Van Alebeek said.
Most international students will be here from two to four years while they complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree, she said.
International students who are under 21 must live on campus, and many live in Pearce Ford Tower because it’s open all year, Van Alebeek said. Those 21 and older usually live off campus.
To help international students learn their way around Bowling Green and see some of the city’s attractions, the ISS partnered with Living Hope Baptist Church on Friday, when students rode around the city with church members. Teachers from the Confucius Institute like Ma joined the group of students for the tour since they are also new to Bowling Green.
Matt Haste, adult discipleship pastor at Living Hope Baptist Church, said showing international students around is a way for church members to serve the community. It’s something the church has done for about five or six years, he said.
It’s up to the students to decide where they want to go or what they want to see, Haste said. Some choose to see Bowling Green sites, such as Lost River Cave, while others are more practical and go shopping at Walmart or Greenwood Mall, Haste said.