Picking strawberries, spending hours on a lake, attending a concert series and touring the World of Coke in Atlanta.
These are all activities that international students can take part in if they are staying in Macon this summer, thanks to Mercer’s International Students Department.
While most students will return to their homes when school lets out, leaving the country is not an option for many students studying abroad.
Jiali Chen, a freshman journalism student at Mercer University, said the cost of a round-trip plane ticket to her home in Xiamen, China, is an additional expense for her family to pay.
“[It costs] a little bit over $2,000 for the tickets,” Chen said.
This year, Mercer University’s International Students Department is helping ensure that students who have to remain local can enjoy an exciting two-month break.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on this summer,” said Nicole Baker, international student coordinator and adviser for Mercer’s International Bears Association.
One of Baker’s roles is to work with her department and plan trips for international students who stay in Macon during the summer.
“[The students] don’t always go home on the breaks, so whatever services we can provide them really benefits their experience,” she said.
For the summer of 2016, Baker has planned several trips around Georgia.
“We’re going to go to Lake Tobesofkee, and then we’re doing the Second Sunday music series on Coleman Hill,” she said. “A trip to Sky Zone, a strawberry picking trip and perhaps a trip to Atlanta.”
Although the longer trips take place during the summer, Baker also plans other events throughout the school year. One of her goals is to keep the students busy with activities outside of school.
“We try to do at least two or three trips per semester,” she said. “For example, in the fall, we went to North Georgia. We went apple picking. We went to a waterfall, and we also went to Dahlonega to the underground gold mine.”
Kim [Tuyen] Dangova is a sophomore public health major from the Czech Republic. She said she has been on a number of trips with Baker and other students in her two years at Mercer. One of her first trips was during the fall of her freshman year.
“We took a trip to Savannah, and I really loved how they welcomed me,” she said.
Dangova said she goes on these trips whenever she has time in her schedule. During the spring semester of 2016, many of the activities were centered in Macon.
“We try to provide some unique opportunities for cultural exposure,” Baker said.
In February, several students participated in International Week at the Alexander II Magnet School near Mercer.
“[They] presented their culture and their nations in classrooms, so every classroom in Alex II had an international student go into their class,” Baker said. “Some students wore their cultural dress. Some provided food.”
Other activities allowed students to explore Macon.
“Here this past spring, focusing on Macon, we went to the Hay House. We did the Hay House tour,” Baker said.
One of last semester’s trips was to the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds, an excursion that Chen said was one of her favorites.
“We stayed for [a] dancing show,” she said. “Mostly it [was] about the show. There were dances and flute playing.”
This upcoming summer, strawberry/peach picking and a trip to “the Grand Canyon of Georgia,” Providence Canyon, are on Baker’s agenda.
“It’s going to be fun,” she said.