As one makes their way around the mountain at the Conference on National Affairs you will come across those that we have come to know as the Blue Ridge Assembly International Staff. Not a tray is left alone on the tables for more than a moment, not a meal goes unprepared, and most certainly a room is never left to fend for itself here on the mountain. Elaine Godfrey, the Staff Development Director, was kind enough to take two very fortunate girls to the international student’s cooking and living quarters. The girls found themselves delving deep into conversations with people from Jamaica, China, Colombia, Belarus, Mexico, and also an American “staffer” from Alabama. Mrs. Godfrey conveyed how her partnerships such as CCUSA (Camp Counselor United States of America) and the YMCA aided her in the ability to compile a staff full of culture, variety, and passion.

“The staff is enormously benefiting from the constant English communication, as well as having hours of program participation for their resume. While some may feel that the foreign staff members greatly outnumber the American workers, the ratio is only approximately 31:20, and the number of American workers has significantly increased due to the lack of jobs with the current economic situation our country faces” says Mrs. Godfrey of her employees.

When discussing politics with Howard Gordon of Jamaica, he noted how “running for office as well as supporting politics in (my) home country is far more intense. We don’t worship our leaders like you do and we will criticize ours at the drop of a hat. We take freedom of speech to a completely different level.”

The American staffer, Caleb Bradford of Hartselle, Alabama, told the interviewers how he found it amusing to “watch the foreign students cross the language barrier. It was difficult for some to learn different phrases that meant more than one thing and I enjoy helping them as best as I can”.

When Xiaomeng Liu (Patty) came to America, she was overwhelmed by the “different habits, different ways of communication, and the extremely friendly people” that made her transition to the States a pleasant one. While she misses the food like that in China, she is slowly becoming more accustomed to American cuisine.

Raquel Morales Gomez is one of five participants of a partnership that Mrs. Godfrey has recruited with the University in Chihuahua, Mexico. “America may be close to Mexico, but they are very different nations. We are more warm in our greetings and our affection is expressed from every gender alike by hugs and kisses regularly” says Raquel. Gloria Medina Chambueta will attest to this as she is from a nation of Latin American culture. She also conveyed how in Bogotá, Colombia it is very different from where she is currently residing. When she came to the United States, the amount of fast food was appalling. At home, her daily meals would be purchased fresh from the market that was close to her home.

The last employee the girls spoke with was Juliya Davidzenka from Belarus and, while communication was limited, Juliya expressed how Americans have been generally friendlier comparatively than the more reserved people of her home country, and it was a nice change. While the international staff is very diverse, they have much in common with the rest of the delegates at the Conference on National Affairs, and the girls implore you to take a moment to meet the employees at Blue Ridge Assembly.

edited by cassie