USC boasts the largest international student population of any university in the country and is located in one of the nation’s most diverse cities — on Friday, those two worlds came together.
Students from a wide array of countries, including Thailand, China, Australia, Taiwan, Denmark, India, Columbia, Iran and Papua New Guinea, visited Vermont Avenue Elementary School as part of the school’s Literacy Day. Now in its third year, Literacy Day is a chance for elementary school students to interact with people from different countries and cultures, and a chance for USC students to tell children the importance of reading and going to college.
Topics ranging from after school activities to what species of animals live in each country filled each classroom Friday morning as USC students detailed their experiences growing up in other countries.
Leidy Lim, a graduate student studying teaching English to speakers of other languages, said it was fun to watch the children’s reactions as the USC students talked about their cultures.
“They ask so many questions,” Lim said. “The kids are so curious about how life in their country differs from mine. I told them Papua New Guinea doesn’t have theaters, and they were in absolute shock.”
To the kids, the experience is a fun way to learn about a lifestyle outside the United States. But many of the USC student volunteers said they might have learned just as much as the children did.
“It’s a great opportunity not for just the kids, but for us as well to give back to the society,” said Warren Chan, a senior majoring in business administration. “It’s mutually beneficial, and I find it very uplifting.”
Prior to this year, Literacy Day had previously been held at Loren Miller Elementary School. But Brenda Cortez, who is now the principal at Vermont Avenue, heard about USC’s Office of International Students and the International Students’ Assembly and worked with the groups to bring the event to Vermont Avenue.
Though this is the only outreach program specifically involving international students, OIS and ISA are looking to have a few more days like this at the elementary school. A culture day might be in the works for the future, with students from ISA spending a whole day focusing on teaching kids about traditional food, clothing and societal customs.
Many of USC’s international students, including Xiaoran Wang, a graduate student studying electrical engineering, said they hope the program will be expanded.
“The children just get so excited to see us, and it really makes me happy and makes me think to myself how I could get more involved,” Wang said.
Becky Peterson, international student adviser at OIS, said she sees a great desire among international students to participate in these outreach programs, and she hopes more events of this type will develop.
“The international kids have such huge hearts. To do something like this really showcases how much they really enjoy giving back,” Peterson said.