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UCSD’s International Center grows by leaps and plans and students

By Emily DeRuy

Contributor

It’s widely known that UCSD has established a reputation for innovation and scientific research over the past 50 years. Less well known but equally compelling, the university has also been fostering international exchanges among students and faculty alike for the last half century.

The school’s International Center, intended to promote intercultural interaction on campus, assists international students, scholars, and their families, as well as UCSD students pursuing study programs abroad. It is ranked seventh in the nation for the number of students it serves.

For Lynn Anderson, Dean of International Education and Director of the International Center, looking to the future offers a clear indication of how much the center has grown and evolved since its inception. She recently received notice of approval for the construction of a new $13.5 million facility.

“We have dramatically outgrown the current center,” Anderson said. “It’s very exciting. It shows that there is clear support from the campus and community for international activities. We were recently told we had the best International Center in the UC system.”

In 1984, the International Center had eight staff members working with about 600 students. Now, a staff of 36 works with nearly 6,000 students, including some 2,400 international scholars and another 2,400 international students and UCSD students studying abroad.

The scholars, at UCSD as faculty or researchers, often bring their families. They come from places as diverse as Korea and Afghanistan, and while they are experts in their fields, they often need assistance understanding Southern California culture.

So while the International Center provides academic advising and career counseling, it also helps global members of the campus community with everything from the logistics of trick-or-treating to the process of buying and cooking local foods.

The International Center offers ongoing programs like Wednesday Morning Coffees, and Mommy and Me classes, to foster interaction between international scholars and the local and campus communities.

Several times a year, the center offers a popular Cooking in America class.

Each Friday, the center hosts an International Café – a lunch sponsored by community organizations and clubs that draws together between 200 and 350 domestic and international students.

An English in Action program offers international scholars and their spouses one-on-one tutoring with a volunteer each week.

Judy Bavasi, one such volunteer, tutors scholars and helps with other programs as a member of The Friends of the International Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering friendship and understanding within the international community.

“I’m hosting a book club. The wives of some of the scholars chose to read “Eat, Pray, Love,” so we’re going to be discussing that,” she said.

Bavasi also tutors a Korean student studying International Relations and Pacific Studies. He hopes to be able to speak with American politicians, and asked her about some terminology he found confusing, specifically phrases like “close the deal” and “beat us to the punch.”

“He was fascinated and it was fun for me,” Bavasi said.

Officially founded in 1973, The Friends of the International Center actually dates back to the 1960s, when the local Zonta Club was seeking a service project. The club members, all female executives in business and the professions, rented a cottage on Eads Avenue to provide badly needed housing to foreign students, scholars and faculty.

Over time, they developed various programs and the cottage became a meeting spot and social space for the international community. Although it no longer houses students, the organization and its members continue to serve the International Center.

Lynn Anderson said she appreciates the work of The Friends of the International Center, particularly the scholarship events the organization hosts.

“They fundraised for building schools in Afghanistan,” she said. “They partner closely with us and run a retail shop on campus that raises $20,000 in scholarship money each year.”

On the Web:

icenter.ucsd.edu