“It’s a chance to connect with students who come from a different culture,” said Britta Wright, director of International Student Services at Columbia College. “It’s an opportunity to extend our welcome to all of the new students and it’s also a chance for the students to make some new friends outside of school.”
Wright helped start the Mid-Missouri Advisors to International Network (MAIN), as a way to connect with other local colleges that enroll international students. MAIN addresses topics that relate to international education and is an inclusive program that encompasses 16 colleges from the area.
With four institutions and hundreds of students, clear communication is the key to the success and popularity of the event. “It’s never been a competition with the other colleges, but rather collaboration,” Wright said. “Even though we’re different institutions, it really is a team effort to put the party on.”
Communication is the goal for many international students as well. Ji Eun Park, a sophomore from South Korea, is working to improve her English speaking skills and is planning to focus on English education. Hyojin Jeon, also a native of South Korea, will be taking several ESL courses as well. “I really hope to be able to speak English fluently,” Jeon said. She heard about Columbia College from a friend who went through the program just a few years ago.
Other students find the diversity of classes very appealing. Freshman Pandaree Sahatsarangsee is studying forensic science. “There really aren’t a lot of schools that offer forensics as a major and I heard a lot of good things about Columbia College,” said Sahatsarangsee.
Columbia College and MAIN know that Pizza in the Park is about more than just a few slices of pie. “Each year, this event gets rave reviews on the evaluation,” Wright said. “Our students appreciate the chance to connect with students at the other universities in town and they often develop lasting friendships.”
Pizza in the Park was sponsored by Bank of America.