Diners gather in international room

Diners gather in international room

It’s like a miniature cafeteria. Laughter and chatter fill the air. The brightly-painted room has a large world map hung on one wall and decorations exhibiting cultures of different countries on the others.

The International Student Center is a “home base” for international students at the high school. It is a place where students can work, study, hang out with friends, rest a little or eat according to international student adviser Elizabeth Davis.

“Sometimes lunch is the part of the day that is most difficult for the new students,” said Davis. “Because they don’t have friends to eat with, they do not know what to do. They might be a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes they prefer not to eat because they don’t know anyone in the cafeteria. Everyone is at their own table that they established early on in the year, and it is difficult to break in.”

There have been years when not many people used the ISC, but Davis said there has been an increase in numbers since last year.

“Because the ISC is smaller and designated for international students and friends, students know that they can always find a friend and a welcoming environment there,” she said.

The diversity in the school is reflected in this smaller group of lunch-eaters. Students come from countries including Norway, Israel, Cape Verde and Turkey.

According to Davis, there are different levels of English comprehension present in the space as well, as some students are in ELL classes, of which there are also different levels, and others are not.

Despite those differences, the ISC helps bring about the feeling that each student is a part of an international community, according to some international students.

“I feel comfortable with all the guys from different countries,” said junior and ELL II student Jose Palma Santos, who came from Honduras two years ago.

Palma Santos said that being in the ISC can help students with their English because they feel more confident talking there, as opposed to in the cafeteria.

“I love the room because it gives us a place to all be together,” said junior Clara Ulken, who was born in America but has German heritage. “But I also think it’s a little bit small, because as you can see it’s really crowded and sometimes no one can find a place to sit. So that’s kind of annoying. But otherwise it’s a lot of fun.”

Senior and former ELL student Kaan Er, who moved from Turkey to America last year in September 2012, agreed that the room is too crowded. He said there are around 15 people in the room at each lunch.

“If somebody gets the chicken pox or something, everyone’s going to get the chicken pox,” Er said. “So it’s not good. It’s not healthy at all.”

Regardless, Er said he comes to eat in the International Student Center because he does not want to be alone.

“I mean, it’s a fun place,” he said. “It’s better than sitting in the lunchroom alone. I met 90 percent of my friends in this room.”

Er and Ulken both said they had been introduced to the ISC by friends.

“We’re like an international community here,” said Er.

Davis said she finds it interesting that adolescents from all over the world can share something.

“We have people from Turkey eating and laughing next to people from Germany, students from Egypt sharing stories with students from Israel, etc. Even though countries may be in conflict, life is peaceful in the ISC, and students enjoy a level of connection and friendship that transcends political borders. It’s a little like former headmaster Dr. Weintraub used to say, ‘BHS is a laboratory for the world.’”

But the things the students like best about the ISC might be a bit different: “They have a couch,” said senior Eivind Duus Molven from Norway, “and they have girls.”

Ashley Lee can be contacted at [email protected]