International student groups discuss unity at retreat

By Todd Bivens

UK’s international student organizations met over the weekend to discuss ways to confront the cultural challenges that students face on campus.

The International Student Council, made up of 11 multicultural student organizations, held a retreat — an event the group plans to make annual — Friday and Saturday. More than 30 students met at the Spring Hill Marriott to brainstorm ways for organizations to become more integrated and for various cultures to be better recognized.

“A lot of us don’t know each other, and this gives us a chance to work together for the future and get our (organizations’) name out there on campus,” said Ifedayo Awe, president of the International Student Council and nursing sophomore.

At the retreat, “Building Connections,” representatives participated in team-building exercises, made presentations on behalf of individual organizations and met with UK officials to discuss new ways to receive university support.

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“I feel a lot of people tend to associate themselves with people from a similar culture or country, and there’s not enough done to get us to interact with each other,” said Naitore Kiogora, president of the African Student Association and communication senior. “That’s what this retreat was all about.”

International organizations strive to promote cultural awareness, Awe said, and this retreat aimed at unifying these groups.

“Today is about networking with other groups,” Awe said. “There are people on campus that can help us, but a lot of these organizations don’t know that they exist.”

Dean of Students Victor Hazard and Student Government President Nick Phelps met with the student representatives to talk about the issues confronting international students and multicultural organizations.

Phelps encouraged organizations to work together to have a greater impact on campus. He also discussed ways that SG could better support the international student organizations.

“It’s really about being part of the process and branching people together while ensuring that the funds are there to make sure things like this can happen,” Phelps said.

UK has about 1,500 international students representing more than 100 countries, said Karen Slaymaker, director of International Student Services.

“Bringing relationships with each other onto campus gives these organizations more power and shows international students that UK has given them something,” Phelps said.