Ministry organization aims to provide safe space for international students

The Bridges International Marshall University group aims to create a positive environment on campus for international students through ministry services. 

According to Erica Burns, one of the organization’s leaders, on a campus that so many international students consider their home away from home, the organization intends to show international students what life in America is like while also creating a safe space for spiritual discussions. 

“Bridges is a ministry on campus that focuses on showing love to international students,” Burns said. “We just want to make sure that they feel that they are seen on campus.”

Another Bridges International leader and junior international affairs major, Grace Reed, said that organizing activities such as offering rides to the airport or grocery store and hosting holiday-themed events are all ways to show international students’ what life is like in the United States. Reed said the organization also serves as a safe place for spiritual conversations.

“Our most consistent meetings are on Tuesdays, where we hold dinner for international students and go through passages of scripture together,” Reed said. “Often, students are coming from places that don’t allow for the same capacity to question and wrestle with other religions or beliefs. Our hope is to provide a space and community that allows them to comfortably learn what Christianity and salvation through Jesus really means.”

Reed became involved with Bridges International her freshman year and started serving on the leadership team the following year. Due to her experience of growing up in both the United States and Latin America, Reed said she found herself able to empathize with the struggles that international student experience such as culture shock, trying to integrate into a new community, missing home and more.

 “I love being able to help create a space and community where international students feel seen and loved,” Reed said. “It’s difficult to transition from home to college no matter how far you’re traveling, but leaving your home country for further education adds an entirely new level to that transition. It can be lonely and confusing, but knowing that we get to focus on building a place of respite in the midst of all the difficulty of being away from home has been extremely rewarding.”

Burns said just living life with international students and doing different activities with them, big or small, is another way the organization can serve them during their time at Marshall. 

“Doing bigger activities such as taking them on trips like Bridge Day, which we did a couple of week ago, or little things like taking them to lunch or dinner and getting to know them really helps to make these students feel like they are seen on campus,” Burns said.

Burns got involved with Bridges International at the beginning of this year and said she knew she wanted to get involved in whatever way she could.

“I am in the Japanese program here at Marshall, so I have some Japanese friends that I wanted to help get involved with things on campus and also be able to have spiritual conversations with them,” Burns said. 

According to Reed, getting involved with Bridges International is a unique way to connect with different countries from all over.

“You’ll be connecting with countries all over the world, right in the heart of Huntington, welcoming them to your country and your own set of unique experiences,” Reed said. “It’s a great way to foster unity and friendship across culture and place.” 

Julianna Everly can be contacted at [email protected]l.edu.