University of South Carolina

Creating an international experience at home

By Liz McCarthy,, 803-777-2848

Sara Lopez Mosquera loves cooking dinner with her friends. The junior business student from Madrid, Spain, makes dinner – mostly Spanish dishes -- most days for her friends from Germany and France.

Her roommate is from Vienna while her suitemates are American. Lopez Mosquera came to USC to live the U.S. college experience, and so far, she’s found the International House at Maxcy College to be the perfect fit.

“I wanted to know people from many countries and to increase my understanding of culture as much as I could,” Lopez  Mosquera says. “I love the experience of having my friends just next door.”  

Austin Solheim, a sophomore international business and accounting major, chose to live (and work) in Maxcy because it was “the best choice.”

“I really wanted to work with international kids and get an international experience while still living here,” says the resident mentor.

This year is the first year for the “Maxcy House,” a living and learning community meant to bring American students and international students together under one roof.

“What we’re trying to do is to create a community where international students feel very comfortable on the USC campus but also for USC students who are American to have experiences of traveling overseas and having a feeling of being in a culturally diverse environment here,” says Lee Walker, faculty principal for Maxcy.

The newly renovated residence hall now houses 160 students, including the French and Spanish houses, and a group of international business students from Hong Kong. The community is made up of about 40 percent international students, from Brazil to India and Germany to Taiwan, and 60 percent American students, mostly freshmen and sophomores, from different academic disciplines.

So far, it’s been a success, Walker says. He points out that USC’s French group, for example, moved its meetings from off-campus to the Maxcy lounge area, which has become a center for French activity on campus. Every week, there’s a French conversation hour where students come to speak only French.

Because it’s a living and learning center, international programming is a part of the living arrangements and a part of educational experiences Walker and his staff are trying to create.

During movie nights, for example, residents in Maxcy might watch a German film or have a French immersion night, creating a chance for residents to interact but with an international flair, Walker says.

Part of Maxcy’s curriculum centers around bringing in speakers and having international guests stop by to participate in conversations with students about study abroad and traveling, among other subjects, so “students have a chance to see that traveling overseas and the kind of appreciation that you get for diverse cultures is really an important part of your life development and the choices you make about your career,” Walker says.

Walker is also teaching the Maxcy study abroad class that will travel to Costa Rica in May. The course will explore many disciplines, crossing health, economics, politics and several sciences, Walker says.

Part of the academic side of Maxcy also involves getting students involved in research projects at the university. Graduate students or faculty members conducting research and looking for a helper with an international or language skill can turn to Maxcy students, Walker says.

“At the learning center, what we are trying to emphasize is being at a research institution. And what is really unique about being at a research institution, is having the ability to do research,” Walker says. He says hopes Maxcy can become a resource for the wider unversity community.  

The Maxcy community is part of the university’s push through USC Connect to continue learning beyond the classroom. It connects Study Abroad, service learning, International Programs, University Housing and many others.

“I’m trying to facilitate the ability of students to integrate academic life with residential life and to allow them to see the synergies between those two,” he says.

For Walker it has been exciting to see students like Lopez  Mosquera and Solheim who are very interested in having a cultural experience, something that has become more important in today’s globally focused world.  

“As the world becomes smaller, it really becomes important to have a great understanding of diverse cultures and different languages,” Walker says. 

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Posted: 02/05/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 02/12/13 @ 11:55 AM | Permalink