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Crossing oceans and building bridges
Published 6/19/2013 6:00:00 AM
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The Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSIs) for Student Leaders Program will start this Friday when 20 journalism students fly in from the Middle East to experience American life at WSU.

Students will participate in a one-night only homestay with host families at WSU and travel to Seattle, San Francisco and Washington D.C. in the following weeks.

Christine Curtis, a coordinator of the program in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, said the program is a great learning experience for host families.

“We don’t really know a lot about the Middle East, but we get students who have experienced it,” Curtis said. “It changes peoples’ perceptions.”

On June 29, the Office of International Programs (IP) will also hold a brief orientation for host families on the elements of Middle Eastern culture. The presentation will be followed by an international potluck with the SUSI students and faculty members from the College of Communication.

In addition, host families will interact with SUSI students on the night of June 29 before the students return to the WSU campus on June 30.

“Pullman is such a friendly and welcoming introduction to American culture,” Curtis said. “There is always a plethora of people looking to host students.”

Curtis said many of the students developed their perceptions of American culture through watching films, and are surprised by what they encounter in Pullman.

The journalism students will travel to cities relevant to what they are studying.

“Seattle and San Francisco are worlds apart,” Curtis said. “San Francisco is always a blast for them and the city has a great work hard, play hard mentality.”

Curtis said the SUSI program is in its third consecutive year at WSU, and the College has had a positive experience with The Office of International Programs.

The program has not experienced many challenges this year and developed into a well-oiled machine, Curtis said.

Last year Curtis said she worked as a chaperone for the program and remembered talking with students for hours.

“They have so much to share,” Curtis said. “It gave me a chance to get to know them and keep an open mind about things.”

Kate Hellmann, the IP center coordinator, said the amount of students from several Middle Eastern countries varies every year.

Hellmann said the goal of the program will be to provide the best possible experience for students based on their needs and preferences.

“We want the families to experience the richness of Middle East culture,” Hellmann said. “The presentations at the very end from students just blow you away.”

Overall, Curtis said she likes the way the program is set up for students and families, but added that she would like to include one more exciting feature for students.

“They have always wanted to meet the president and visit the White House,” Curtis said.

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