From Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine, Spring 2008

A Perfect Saturday
Alumni give students a taste of Chicago ... and home

Enjoying the spectacular view from the Sears Tower Skydeck are (left to right) Chao Ren ‘11, Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas ’76, Xiangyu Wu ’11, Xinyi Wu ’11, Josh Marder ’03 and Weiyi Xie ’11.

Story by Amelia Benner ’09

A sight-seeing trip to Chicago helped bridge cultures and form new friendships between international students and alumni at Illinois Wesleyan’s “Saturday in the City” event.

“It was without a doubt the most rewarding alumni activity I’ve ever participated in,” said Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas ’76, who helped plan the first-of-its-kind outing.

Marianne came up with the idea for the outing after hearing eight international students discuss their experiences at the “Walk a Kilometer in My Shoes” presentation during Homecoming this fall.

“I was particularly struck with their comments about the foods they miss from home, how long it would be before they would have the comfort of encouraging words from their parents and families and the undeniable truth that they are so alone even in their group,” Marianne said.

Realizing that Chicago alumni were perfectly positioned to show international students the city’s history and culture, Marianne planned the trip with the help of assistant director of Alumni Relations Trevor Sierra ’05 and International Office student advisor Reenie Bradley.

Twenty-three international students traveled to Chicago on the morning of Feb. 23, pairing up with a group of 16 Wesleyan alumni for conversation and sightseeing. The alumni and students scattered across the city, visiting museums, cultural centers and Michigan Avenue.

Sampling some Chicago-style cuisine are Class of 2011 international students (from left) Golibe Ese-Echesi, Philip Adeleye and Mujtaba Isani.

Marianne and fellow alumnus Josh Marder ’03 took a group of Chinese students — Xiangyu Wu ’11, Weiyi Xie ’11, Chao Ren ’11 and Xinyi Wu ’11 — “through the Loop, stopping to take pictures on Daley Plaza and of the Picasso,” Marianne said. “From there, we moved on to the Sears Skydeck. It was sunny, clear and fun to show off Chicago from the 103rd floor!”

Afterward the students gave the alumni a taste of their own culture at a Chinese restaurant. “They got to taste frog, liver, twice-cooked pork, spicy beef, spicy tofu and pot stickers, all prepared in ways they miss, while I had the treat of sampling Chinese dishes I probably never would have attempted if not for the explanation of the students,” Marianne said. “Though my lips were numb from the spices, we had a great time exchanging stories of school, parents, family and travels.”

Marianne said that alumni and students had a great time exploring Chicago and getting to know each other — so much so that the group is already looking forward to planning the next “Saturday in the City” outing.

“For me, among the best moments was probably the final one with the students,” she said. “Xiangyu and Xinyi gave me hugs goodbye and promised to telephone their moms to share the stories from our day with them. I knew for as much as the students were thrilled, their parents would find comfort in hearing there were alums who’d spent a day bringing smiles and friendship to their daughters so far away from home."

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