International Friendship Program creates lasting friendships


JOHNSON CITY (July 30, 2013) — When the International Friendship Program began in 2007, Dr. Rhona Hurwitz, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Yingjuan Tang, a new ETSU graduate student from the North China University of Technology (NCUT), were paired to assist Tang as she settled into American university life.

What began as a brief connection to ease Tang’s transition to ETSU turned into a long-lasting bond. Tang earned her Master of Arts in Teaching degree and taught English at NCUT. She is now coordinator of that school’s international student program.

Recently, Tang, along with Xiong Jiaquan, executive director of the NCUT program, visited ETSU to discuss further development of the exchange of students between NCUT and ETSU. Meetings were held with ETSU administrators, among them Maria Costa, director of ETSU’s international programs, and Dr. Rebecca Pyles, dean of the Honors College, which encompasses those programs.

There was time, however, for Tang and Hurwitz to have a joyous reunion. Not only have they kept in touch over the years, but Hurwitz has visited China twice under the auspices of ETSU and met with Tang.

“Yingjuan was able to spend several days with me while I took part in the ETSU summer program of travel and study in China,” Hurwitz explains. “She helped me get around by train and came to the rescue when I became ill.”

Looking back to the time when they first met, Hurwitz says they became better acquainted by cooking together. Tang notes that Hurwitz already knew the fundamentals of Chinese cuisine and Tang taught her to make stuffed eggplant, as well as a sort of pancake popular in her hometown. In turn, Tang videotaped Hurwitz creating pizza (a great favorite of Tang’s), lasagna and meat loaf. “I used those videotapes in class when I was teaching English at NCUT,” says Tang.

Tang and Hurwitz planned several days to catch up on each other’s lives, including a “build-your-own-pizza” evening with friends.

The International Friendship Program annually recruits faculty and staff, or members of the community, to meet international students as they arrive and welcome them into their homes for a few nights while they assist with shopping, banking and errands before settling the students in their residence halls.

“The program is intended to help students start their education at ETSU on a firm footing,” Hurwitz says, “but participation in the program is so much more than that. The experience is very rewarding for both sides.”

Those who wish to assist with the International Friendship Program should contact Dr. Brent Morrow at or (423) 439-4187 for an application or more information.

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