Summer immersion program builds lifelong international friendships
By Leslie Sweet Myrick
August 20, 2018

For the past nine years (and I have been writing summary articles like this one for 6 of these years!), ACES has hosted a summer immersion program for students from China, Korea, and Mexico. 

These students get to experience the Illinois campus, work with an ACES mentor, complete a research project, and participate in cultural activities and field trips. Our faculty and their graduate students provide an exceptional experience for these students year after year.

Honestly I don’t have much involvement in this program; others in my office do most of the coordination. I do, however, always attend the “closing ceremony and poster session” to see what the students have accomplished.

But what I always notice at this event is not the research on the posters but the relationships that have formed between the participants and their mentors and lab partners in only a few short weeks. 

As someone who spent two summers abroad from my own studies at Illinois, I am happy to witness evidence that these students will have lifelong emotional ties to Illinois whether or not they ever return here. (And over the years many have returned as grad students.)

So whether its 4 weeks or 4 months or longer, programs like this serve as a bridge for cultural understanding for both the participants and the hosts. Both sides make lifelong friendships and provide international perspectives that are so important because the students and faculty from all institutions represented are ultimately working on the same issues (food security, nutrition, and environment) that are critical to all of us.  

In ACES we pride ourselves on sending so many of our own students out into the world to study abroad. And as I witness at this event year after year (and the testimonials in this summary show), we are also being great hosts to those who come to us.