A student organization that encourages friendship among international students and Americans at Omaha-area college campuses – such as the University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University and Metro Community College is gaining popularity.
This group’s name is Global Friends and it is open to the greater Omaha community.
Global Friends started 10 years ago, said Julie Arant, the group’s organizer who taught English overseas for a stint. After she returned to the United States, Arant had an idea to help more international students feel at home in America. She created Global Friends, which now has an average of 50-70 students that meet once a week, typically on Friday. During Global Friends special events, more people participate drawing crowds as large as 100 to 300.
“In the fall, we have a welcome event picnic at Elmwood Park where we meet all the newly arriving students to Omaha,” Arant said. “The next day, we invite them to an all-day boating party. We also have other events like bowling, ice-skating, super-bowl parties and lots of dinners for students in different schools.”
Arant also explained the weekly events. “At our every Friday night gatherings we enjoy a large meal, a game, singing, then we break into discussion groups all over in a large home,” Arrant said. “People are really enjoying those activities.”
Global Friends provides friendship and make people feel at home, Arant said. At Global Friends,people can learn about different cultures, mix and mingle with people with common interests or learn about new ones too.
Arant, who typically opens up her home, welcomes newcomers to join the group. The group recently took a trip a local ice skating rink and had a Super Bowl party.
When asked about her future plan to grow the organization, she said, “We only meet in one large home at this time. We would like to find other large homes so that we can multiply and expand Global Friends.”
Matt Keller, 23, is a paid intern of Global Friends. He has been working with the group since September 2016.
“I like the aspects of international friends to have American friends, and I want to help international students with what else need they want,” Keller said. “Plus, I am a Christian, and I want to share joy and good news to international students.”
Keller’s dream is to work overseas, so he joined Global Friends. He thought it would help him to communicate with international people, make international friends, and learn different cultures.
Aaron Wang, 24, who is a junior from Metropolitan Community College, is originally from China. He has been studying in Omaha for 8 years. Wang joined the Global Friends 6 months ago. “People always friendly,” he said, “and it’s like a big family. I really love it.”
Wang is an international studies major, so it is very good for him to know different culture in Global Friends. He said he learns a lot and make different friends.
“I will come back,” Wang said about group participation. “I always enjoy the environment in here.”
Sruthi Sravanam, 23, is a graduate student whose major is biomedical informatics at UNO. Sravanam, a Global Friends student officer, has been with the group for nearly two years. Every time she meets up with the group, she feels joyful and refreshed.
“I like to make friends from different countries,” she said, “and learn more about their cultures.”
When Sravanam first came to Omaha, she felt lonely, until she met Global Friends. She fell in love with this group.
“Global Friends helps me have a very good time with friends and families. I think they are my family in USA,” she said. “I will come back next time. I even wish it can be every day and I look forward to see my friends and know new friends.”
Sunny Nakada, 20, a sophomore at UNO, is from Japan. She’s majoring in athletic training and has been at UNO for a year and a half. It was her eighth time participating in a Global Friends event.
“I really like Global Friends,” Nakada said, “it gives me chance to connect with a lot of international students and American students, and my English improves a lot.”
Nakada attends Bible studies with Global Friends.
“I love to listen the story about Christ, and I think it is the real God for me,” Nakada said. “I will come here next year because I have a lot of friends here, they make me feel like I have a family in America.”