WKU International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), English as a Second Language International (ESLI) and Navitas co-sponsored a trip for more than 100 international students to Chicago during fall break Oct. 4-6.
These three organizations are committed to enhance the educational and cultural experience of the all international students at WKU. “We believe that in order for international students to fully learn a language, they must leave the four walls of a classroom to experience English and what America has to offer,” said Dawn M. Winters, ESLI Academic Director.
The group boarded two chartered buses in front of Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium early on Oct. 4 and headed north on I-65. With one stop for lunch, the students were ready to greet the Windy City. The buses pulled into downtown Chicago about 4:30 p.m. and students went straight to Navy Pier to begin their Chicago excursion.
When the group arrived in Chicago, the temperatures were in the 70s. While the students were enjoying the shopping, restaurants and festivities at Navy Pier, a front blew in and brought with it rain and cooler temperatures. This just added to the unpredictable ambiance of the Windy City.
On Oct. 5, the buses dropped the group off in front of the Art Institute of Chicago and made it the central location for activities. The primary objective of this trip was to see the sights and experience the unique culture of Chicago. It was not mandatory for the international students to tour the city as a group, so many of them opted to explore on their own.
“It was an incredible city, but way colder than I anticipated,” said Jesica Hayes from Mixco, Guatemala. “I liked the freedom to explore the area and walk wherever. The bus left us in a great location; we had good access to all the main landmarks in Chicago.”
A guided tour of the city was led by WKU ISSS and ESLI chaperones. The first stop for this group was the famous “bean” in Millennium Park. Then, they made their way up the Magnificent Mile to the top of the John Hancock Building to get their first panoramic glimpse of this beautiful city. After this excursion, everyone was more than ready for some of the world-famous Chicago cuisine. They were not disappointed, nearby was a food court that featured pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, the Chinese dumpling bao and much more.
Jenny Xu, a visiting scholar from Dalian, China, said: “I liked the big ‘bean’ very much and the pizza. You have to try the pizza, if you are in Chicago.”
After lunch, the group returned to the Art Institute of Chicago to begin the next leg of their tour. To give the group multiple options, at this point the group and chaperones divided. Some students stayed at the Art Institute, while others made their way to the Shedd Aquarium, and a third group went to the Cultural Center of Chicago.
“I liked the ‘bean’ in Millennium Park and the Art Institute. I would like to have spent more time in the Art Institute. If I return, I will go back there,” said Yifang Zhang, a visiting scholar from Changchun City, China.
The group converged at the end of the day to make their way to the top of the world-famous Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. No one was disappointed; the view from the top of the Willis Tower was spectacular. The group reached the top just at dusk, so they were able to see the city as the last bit of daylight faded into an awe inspiring sunset. The sunset from atop of the Willis Tower was the grand finale to an eventful day of touring.
“It was a very awesome trip to the ‘Windy City,’ Chicago,” said Azu Nwosu, from Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. “I enjoyed every moment. My experience with the Navy Pier will remain evergreen. The Skydeck and its elevator, ‘Waooo!,’ it was wonderful. The friendly people around all hooks and corners of the city were very welcoming. Lake Michigan and its effects, very cold weather, was amazing. I LOVE CHICAGO!”
On Oct. 6, the group made one last stop at the Oakbrook Terrace Mall to wrap up the trip with a little more shopping then the buses set their course for I-65 southbound to Bowling Green.
“The goal of providing social programming initiatives is to foster and promote an increased quality of life within the university for students. These trips can be valuable experiences that enlighten students and allow for education outside of the classroom with real-world knowledge. What better way to acculturate students than by providing such opportunities to travel within the United States?” said Eric Druen, Navitas Student Support Officer. “This trip would have been nearly impossible without the efforts of ISSS. While each office strives to serve WKU’s international student body in different capacities, the key effort is to build connections between countries by diversely illuminating culture and heritage. By combining resources and partnering between the offices, we are fortunate to serve a larger student group by making trips like this possible.”
Contact: Diana Howard, (270) 745-4857.