Rose Honegger grew up in Malaysia, studied in Canada & the US, and now lives among the Cajuns & Creoles of South Louisiana. She heads the Office of International Affairs at UL. ultoday.com spoke with her recently.

Tell us about yourself.

I moved to Lafayette six years ago with my husband and three daughters. My husband teaches English at UL, and I am the Director of the Office of International Affairs.

I came to North America from Malaysia, from Kuala Lumpur, as an undergraduate studying Linguistics at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I then went to graduate school at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, in Linguistics also.

I have been in this job for 4 years. Before that I was an adjunct teaching ESL courses in the Intensive English Program at UL.

And when I have time, I like to garden, and cook southeast Asian food. I have a flower garden, but I don't get to do much with it.

Coming from Asia, what do you make of the Cajuns & Creoles?

They're so warm and friendly. We love living here. I can see myself living here the rest of my life. We just feel so welcome here.

How does the weather compare?

I grew up in the tropics, 100% humidity year-round over there, and 90° every day throughout the year.  No winter. The first time I got to see winter was in Canada. I was so excited I ran out in my pajamas to see the snow.

Tell us about the International Program.

The Office of International Affairs is responsible for over 650 international students studying at UL. We are also responsible for scholars who here come from other countries to conduct research in collaboration with faculty members in various UL academic departments.

Our responsibilities include making sure that all of our international students stay in compliance with US Customs & Immigration Service regulations. And then we're also responsible for aiding international students and the research scholars in their transition to life on campus and in the community here. To help with this, we hold a special orientation program for international students, where we not only introduce them to all of the services that are available to them on campus, but we also discuss the issue of culture shock:  the symptoms they need to be aware of, and how to handle it.

Explain that.

Culture shock occurs in stages.  The first stage is the honeymoon, when everything is rosy. In the second stage, a person becomes more aware of differences, and some students may feel apprehensive, or very homesick.  At this stage, they tend to avoid others and keep to themselves.  There are other stages, but the last one is when they come to grips with the differences, embrace them, and develop friendships and meet people.

It can be hard coming to the US.  We had one international student who came to UL when he was only 16.  He didn't speak English very well.  At first he was very shy, because of the language difference, but also because of the cultural differences.  But he lived in the dorms, and through his interactions with American and International students, he had a positive experience.  As a result, he was very successful; in fact, he just graduated in engineering.

You also teach.

I'm also the director of the International English Program at UL, a non-credit adult education program for international students. The purpose of the program is to provide intensive English instruction to non-native speakers of English who just want to improve their proficiency, or to international students who want to gain admission to UL, but have not met the proficiency requirements.

So on one hand we have students from all over the world, some of whom have completed high school.  On the other, we also have a lot of spouses, because the oil industry attracts a lot of foreign nationals, and they want to pursue a degree at UL, or improve their proficiency.  Some of them were professionals in their own countries. So it's a nice mix of traditional and non-traditional students. 

Then we also oversee all of the social programming for international students on campus.

It's International Week.

Yes. That's an annual celebration of the diversity of countries and cultures at UL. It provides an opportunity for people on campus and in the community to learn about the international students here. Our students represent over 70 countries, so this is a chance to sample foreign cultures without having to travel overseas.

What are your dreams for the program?

Well, one of them is to increase international student enrollment on campus. In the early 1980's we had 1600 students.

My other dream, I'd like to see an international dormitory on campus, where the residents would be half American, half international. You tend to get to know the people where you live. 

So it would be a great opportunity for both groups to learn about each other.


 

 

International Week, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Kick-Off Party: iWorld
Student Union Porch
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Miss International Pageant
Student Union Ballroom

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Hallway Display
Student Union Hallway
4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Game Show: Battle of the Minds
Student Union Evangeline Room

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Panel Discussion
(Sponsored by the Diversity Advisory Council)
Student Union Forum
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Entertainment Night
(Desserts served) Student Union Ballroom

Thursday, March 5, 2009
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Community Service
(Benefiting the United Nations Peacekeeping Troops)
Student Union Hallway
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. International Movie Night
(Sponsored by Phi Beta Delta) Moody Hall – Room 103

Saturday, March 7, 2009
7:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. International Dinner and Ball
DJ Shane and TMak - Student Union Ballroom