Sponsors provide real image of U.S.: SSI’s international students connect with U.S. families
June 30, 2011
Egyptian Army Maj. Sherif Awadallah said he arrived at Fort Jackson after completing his 32-hour trip from Egypt expecting to see Americans as they appear in movies.
“The Americans I see here are not that way, though. They are not threatening, they raise their children in good ways, and they respect their country and their flag,” he said. “This is not the picture we see of Americans in our media. I’ve learned real American ways from my sponsors here.”
The Soldier Support Institute’s International Military Student Office is looking for more sponsors to help show the international students who come to train here the true American way of life.
“Next week, I will have 17 new students here and they all need sponsors,” said Brenda Mims, IMSO training coordinator. “It’s an amazing way for our families to see how life is outside of the U.S. and show others that we are not the Americans they see on TV.”
Dennis Brucker, chief of the IMSO, said the students are not looking for elaborate entertainment, just a glance at everyday life.
“They want to see simple things; a kids’ soccer game on Saturdays or a birthday party,” he said. “Our office will take them on tours to historical sites and entertainment areas, but what they can’t get is the true experience of American families.”
Mims said Fort Jackson sponsors would be required to connect with their student once a month.
“We don’t ask sponsors to do much, but the relationship is a rewarding experience that grows beyond just one coffee a month,” she said.
Some of the international students said they are seeking family experiences because many of them leave their families behind for the opportunity to study with the U.S. Army.
“I have a wife and two children back home,” said Indonesian Army Capt. Mustafa Rajab. “We speak over Skype as much as we can, but the time difference makes it very difficult.”
There are also limited transportation options for these Fort Jackson guests.
“The challenge is that they don’t have transportation. Often times they are just sitting in their hotel rooms watching CNN all day ...,” Mims said. “It would really be helpful to have others on Fort Jackson to welcome and support them. Our staff can only do so much.”
U.S. Army Capt. Geoffrey Guinnup at the Adjutant General Career Course says he has enjoyed sponsoring an international student-soldier.
“The most rewarding part about sponsorship is getting a different perspective on everything,” said Guinnup, who sponsors Rajab. “This helps encourage my professional growth and develops skills to explain complex ideas in simple ways.”
All international students speak English.
“Being a sponsor is just a really great way to learn about the whole world without leaving your comfort zone,” said Brucker.
To become an international student sponsor, contact Brenda Mims at Brenda.J.Mims@us.army.mil.