The international student’s mind raced with panic. “What should I do? What should I do?”
Wayne arrived in the U.S. alone, without a phone and without confidence in his English skills. After missing his bus to Auburn, he didn’t know where to turn for help.
He saw a man outside the airport wearing an Auburn t-shirt. At that time he found it difficult to speak a full sentence in English, but he approached the man anyway.
“Me going to Auburn, can you help me with that?” Wayne asked.
Without hesitation, he helped Wayne find his bus and lent him his phone to call the office and reschedule his reservation. Wayne thought to himself, “this is amazing.”
The man’s warm reception and selfless assistance was Wayne’s first glimpse of the Auburn Family.
Wayne studied English since he was 6, so he had a baseline knowledge of the language. He spent a year of high school as an exchange student in a German village. Despite experience with Western culture, he faced challenges in Auburn as an international student.
“The language and culture barrier was difficult,” Wayne said. “It was hard for me when they spoke so fast in my classes. It’s kind of embarrassing for us because we’d have to ask ‘what’d you say?’ You have to be very positive and engaged.”
He spent his first two semesters in classes with Auburn Global, a success program for international students. Wayne quickly befriended his peers and the global guides who helped them transition. Owen Chandler, a global guide from Vestavia, made a strong connection with Wayne.
“We started out as acquaintances, but once we started hanging out, he felt more like just a normal friend,” Owen said. “We have spent so much time with each other that we can just be real with one another.”
Wayne was growing his friend base in Auburn Global and with Owen’s friends, but he said he felt slightly “isolated” from the rest of the campus because he didn’t have classes with American students. He questioned if he belonged here.
After his second semester came to a close, Wayne decided to branch out. In the fall, he enrolled in classes outside of Auburn Global and started on some of his core classes in pre-public relations.
“It’s getting better and better,” he said. “I’ve made American friends and they’re pretty funny, I like that.”
A new life
An aspect of American culture unknown to Wayne was religion. Before coming to Auburn, he didn’t believe in God. Wayne watched how Owen lived his life as a Christian, and wanted to know more.
“They [Christians] are so nice to me all the time,” he said. “I wanted to learn about Jesus and I asked Owen if he could read the Bible with me.”
Owen described studying with Wayne as “inexplicably humbling.” Owen baptized Wayne for remission of his sins at Auburn Church of Christ. Wayne now has a community with the church there and is excited to be “the hands of Jesus to help people,” according to Owen.
“I only knew about the U.S. from movies. When I’m here, I get to actually know the people and see that people live their lives differently.”
Wayne’s favorite part of Auburn? The people, or as we like to call them, members of the Auburn Family.