BSM intern builds relationships with international students during year at WBU

Release Date: April 9, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – When Katie Trimble signed on to serve as the intern for Wayland Baptist University’s Baptist Student Ministries office, she knew she was in for a special year. What she didn’t expect, perhaps, is that she would get to “see the world” without ever leaving Plainview, Texas.

A 2008 graduate of Wayland, Trimble stayed on at her alma mater as a year-long volunteer with Go Now Missions through the Baptist General Convention of Texas. And during the year, she’s confirmed her call to minister to college students…with a bit of a twist.

“While we were planning this year, we decided that one big part of my job would be to work with international students, which we really hadn’t done much of before,” Trimble said. “We got lots of ideas from other campuses about what they do, and just sort of started from scratch.

“We wanted to focus on this because it wasn’t a big focus anyone else was doing. We just wanted them to know that we were here for them if they needed anything.”

The effort took on a practical approach as the BSM leadership students and Trimble made themselves available for rides to Wal-Mart or for groceries, help with doctor visits or anything else with which international students often struggle.

“We forget sometimes that many of them don’t have cars or don’t know the lingo here as much as we do,” she said. “They just sometimes need a hand.”

The year started with making contact with all the international students on campus – many of whom are connected in some way with Wayland’s athletic programs – and beginning a series of monthly dinner nights where the students shared dishes from their home countries.

Trimble said that effort was a success from the standpoint of just getting to know the students and letting them share a piece of their own heritage, instead of just acclimating them to American traditions. She said about 20-25 students would participate regularly, with all enjoying the tastes of different nations than their own. And the students can really cook, she added.

“I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much,” she laughed. “The students are good cooks and really enjoy sharing their culture.”

In October, the BSM took 12 students with them to the WBU cabin in Glorieta, N.M., for a long weekend retreat simply to relax and enjoy the mountains of New Mexico. Similar BSM programs from Texas Tech and West Texas A&M joined them at the retreat, so the internationals got to visit with peers from nearby institutions.

The year-long outreach effort culminated recently in a spring break trip to Austin and San Antonio, where about a dozen students enjoyed the sight-seeing at the state capitol and Sixth Street and had fun at Sea World and a San Antonio Spurs basketball game. Some focus on the culture of Texas and its diversity was included in the week, but for the most part, the emphasis was on fun.

“We wanted to give them a chance to see more of Texas and experience our culture as well,” said Trimble, who noted a marked difference in the relationships between internationals from the start of the school year.

The students said the experience was enjoyable, and they got a glimpse of a new world in South Texas as well.

“I loved it; it was cool to get of town and see the sights,” said Anika Voigt, a sophomore from Potsdam, Germany, who plays on the Pioneer Volleyball team. “My favorite part was Sea World and the Riverwalk. It was very pretty there and I was surprised at how pretty San Antonio is. It reminds me more of home with more trees and water.”

Voigt and Marcos Chenthitta, a senior from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates said they enjoyed the learning aspects of the trip as well, even though it was during a break from school.

“The capitol in Austin was very pretty, and we learned a lot about the state and the city of Austin. We got to learn on this trip too,” said Chenthitta, who is studying business. “We had the chance to see a Spurs game, and that was really good too.”

Latanya Nation, a sophomore from Jamaica, enjoyed the chance to see another side of Austin besides the place where she’s competed as part of the track and field team.

“I enjoyed every moment of the trip,” Nation said, including the van ride there. “I enjoyed the capitol building, and we got to see the old stuff and the historical things, and learned a lot that we didn’t know. I really enjoyed the rides at Sea World, too, and the shows and animal exhibits.”

Her first time on a roller coaster was admittedly scary at first, but Nation said the trip was a great getaway for her and other friends from foreign lands. Besides the activities, the bonding was another benefit given the struggles international students often face to fit in and adapt to strange surroundings.

“We got to know Katie better so that was good too,” said Voigt. “We are pretty far away from home but we’re just like the other kids.”

Trimble said that sentiment underlies the whole reason the BSM set its goal to reach out to internationals. And while the students may have benefited from new friends, new experiences and helping hands, Trimble said she’s grown herself from the year-long ministry.

“It’s been awesome for me. I was nervous about what to do or how it would work out,” she said. “But it’s been so good just to get to know them and see them come to trust us as friends. I see things with a whole new view of the world.”

While conversations about faith are a natural part of the process at a Baptist university, Trimble said just reaching out to students with unique needs has been the first priority.

“They are open to talk about religion and what they believe,” she said. “We really want to just love them and show them Christ’s love.”

Trimble said her year has helped her discover her passion for ministry, and she believes college students are a group she’s called to serve. International students are also special to her as a ministry field, and one she might not have uncovered if not for this year’s experience.

Trimble will accompany students on a mission trip to England this summer to close out her time with Wayland. Students will be working with two churches, leading Bible schools for children specifically.