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November 2, 2001

UW-RF Students Set International Confab in Cities
By Khrysten Darm
UW-RF News Bureau

The International Student Association at UW-River Falls will host a conference for international and American students from the Midwest, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 in Minneapolis.

The first annual Midwest International Student Conference, called "Bridging the Gap," will be hosted at the Four Points Hotel in Minneapolis and the conference will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. About 500 students from 11 Midwestern colleges and universities are expected to attend.

Coordinating the conference is the UW-RF Campus International Ambassadors, said Philip Nelson, a senior from Cottage Grove, Minn., who is majoring in speech communications at UW-RF and coordinating the conference. The Association is taking the unusual step of hosting the event off-campus to increase the attendance of students from higher education institutions in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The conference is being organized in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and the awareness that there is a need for understanding and unity among students of diverse cultures. The conference hopes to find ways for American and international students to have better interaction, but also to give campus organizations across the Midwest a chance to come together.

UW-RF chose Minneapolis as the venue for the conference to ensure maximum participation. The University of Minnesota will hold an International Coffee Hour at the beginning of the conference, which hopes to bring in 200 people. An International Coffee Hour will bring different groups together, and will be a nice introduction to the conference, said Nelson. It will also serve as an icebreaker for students and faculty.

Nelson, who is from Cottage Grove, is the chair of the Campus International Ambassadors, which is an organization for American students that helps International students become accustomed to American ways of life.

"The (Ambassadors) is like a buddy system," Nelson said.

The International Student Association helps to make UW-RF students aware of different cultures that are on campus and to ease international students into the American culture. The Ambassadors provides that connection as an organization for having fun and socializing.

The idea to hold the event started back on Sept. 9 when Nelson and other students from UW-RF attended the University of Minnesota to talk about ways for different schools to socialize. A meeting was planned for Sept. 12, but was postponed after the terrorist attacks.

Nelson and other students from the International Student Association went to Brent Greene, the director of International Programs at UW-RF, and told him of their idea to have a conference with American and international students.

There are to be different speakers at the conference focusing on areas such as why Americans are retaliating militarily against individuals or countries for the attacks, solutions to the problem, and how international student organizations help relationships between Americans and International students, especially from the Middle East. Representatives from different organizations also will have time to talk about what has been happening on their campuses.

International students attending UW-RF have also been affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I've seen many act as if they were Americans," Nelson said about the international students at UW-RF. "They are watching TV just as much as others, and their reactions are similar to Americans'."

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