By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writers
Baylor Bridges seeks to provide a “community of friends” for international students, whether they are at Baylor for one semester or four years, Tulsa senior and Baylor Bridges co-founder Sarah Lesikar said.
Bridges is an international Christian organization that aims to serve, encourage social connections and provide a space for spiritual conversations among international students with the goal of creating student leaders, according to its website. The Baylor chapter of Bridges was started in spring 2016 and is still growing.
Lesikar was inspired to co-found Bridges after spending time abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands. She said she loved meeting people from other countries and wanted to continue interacting with people from other countries at Baylor.
“You kind of learn the struggles of going to a new country and how it can be uncomfortable or strange or you can feel unwelcome and uninvited into the actual culture,” Lesikar said. “So being a Baylor student is getting to say to people, ‘You don’t have to just be friends with other international students. Welcome to Baylor life, welcome to my home and Waco.’”
Coming to a new country is difficult, Lesikar said. Bridges leaders lend a helping hand to international students by taking them to the grocery store, helping them become familiar with American products and food and understand American culture. Bridges leaders are also available to talk to international students about faith and answer questions, Lesikar said.
Baylor Bridges participates in international dinners at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center on Tuesdays and hosts movie nights and dinners at leaders’ homes, Lesikar said.
Bridges leader and Baylor master’s candidate Marcos Luna Hoyas is an exchange student from Spain. He said the biggest struggles coming to the United States are transportation and adapting to the food. Luna Hoyas said the large amount of processed foods in the United States is very different from other countries.
Luna Hoyas said food is a big part of Bridges because it brings everyone together.
“We try to provide a community for them, especially exchange students that are only here six months,” Luna Hoyas said.
Community is the key word for Bridges. Luna Hoyas said that the ultimate purpose of Bridges is to share God’s love. Sometimes that is through faith conversations, he said, and sometimes that is through just being friends. Lesikar and Luna Hoyas said that many of the students in Bridges are from Latin countries, but there are students from countries all over the world, such as China, Lebanon, Peru and Germany.