International students in virtually any institution confront the challenge of fully participating in community life.
International students in virtually any institution confront the challenge of fully participating in community life. When students' native cultures and languages are not shared or reflected in the community majority, the best intentions from their domestic classmates and institutional peers are often not enough to address systemic issues of race, ethnicity, and power. McCormick is no stranger to these knotty realities – but it does work at naming them and keeping them on the radar.
A small but potentially significant breakthrough occurred at McCormick’s international student orientation in late August, when a fledgling organization called the Global Community, led by a group of returning international students, hosted an outdoor luncheon for the rest of the community. For a variety of reasons, communication was spotty – a perfect illustration of said systemic issues – but those who did attend enjoyed outstanding home-cooked meals and basked in a great deal of warmth, hospitality, and family-friendly activity.
While McCormick’s Global Community is still taking shape, already its very existence as an organization governed by international students engaging the rest of the seminary represents an important shift in the community dynamic.
“McCormick is making an effort to connect with the international students, but we also recognize that it is a challenge for us as individuals to find a way to participate in events that are not specifically for us,” said Chingboi Guite, Co-Moderator of the Global Community.
“Sometimes it is because we come from cultures that do not encourage us to express ourselves, and sometimes it is because of a language barrier. But I think we can find courage to express our concerns or needs when we feel the support of an organization or group.”
Introducing the Global Community officers
Chingboi Guite is in her second-year as a Global Scholar enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies degree program. Originally from India, she spent a very formative five years in Japan and claims the Baptist tradition.
She is joined in her work as Co-Moderator by Ji-Tae Park, a second year Korean Methodist student also in the M.T.S. degree program. Prior to coming to McCormick, he had two years of experience as a pastor as well as serving as an administrator at The National Council of Churches in Korea’s Justice and Peace Bureau.
Also a second-year Global Scholar, Lilit Ayvazyan is the Global Community Secretary. She comes from Armenia by way of the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, where she received her Master of Divinity degree in 2008. A coordinator for Christian education in the Evangelical Church of Armenia in her hometown, Lilit learned of McCormick while studying with Rob Worley at NEST. Rob is Director of McCormick’s Language Resource and Writing Center and the faculty advisor for the Global Community.
Global Community’s fourth and final officer is second-year M.T.S. candidate Mi Suk Shin, who serves as Treasurer. Mi Suk is an ordained Korean Presbyterian minister who served for six years as Head of Missions for the National Korean Presbyterian Women after earning her M.Div. in 1998. In 2004, she received her Masters in Social Work and has expressed a commitment to providing education for Korean families living in the United States.
‘We are anxious to hear your voices’
Just an hour prior to the Global Community’s luncheon, President Cynthia Campbell welcomed the new international students in McGaw Common Room. She plainly and candidly reflected on the unwieldy work of becoming a new community and the unique learning opportunities that McCormick’s international students afford the faculty and rest of the student body.
“There will be days when it will be difficult for some of you, difficult for us, difficult to become the new community that we want to be together,” she said. “We will misunderstand one another from time to time, but it is God that gives us the grace and the openness to live through the bumps and to build community.
“You who come from different parts of God’s Church and God’s world bring very important gifts to this community. We who were born and raised in the United States are anxious to hear your voices, your experience and your different ways of understanding the Church.”