Since its arrival on the club scene, the Goucher International Students Association (GISA) has continued to connect Goucher’s international population with American students. Hosting many events, the club aims to give international students a smoother transition into life in the United States and provide native students the opportunity to explore different cultures.
The club’s first event of the semester was an international cooking night in the Fireside kitchen, where GISA members prepared dishes from their countries and backgrounds for the club to enjoy.
Having signed up as a member and needing a switch up from the Mary Fisher usual, I decided to attend.
Walking into the kitchen, the smell of spices and samosas frying was in the air. The sound of conversation amidst Afrobeats bouncing around the room ensured there was no shortage of positive energy. I was greeted upon entry and quickly found my way to a seat at the end of the table, where a competitive game of Set (a card game) was ongoing between a few GISA members. I introduced myself to them, and they showed me how to play.
A good start turned into a good night when the food was ready. The students who prepared dishes showed off their cooking skills with some quality food to offer, including chicken, rice, samosas, and an assortment of vegetables—topping it off afterward with Crepes and Moroccan Mint Tea. After a night of good food, music, and conversation, I left, realizing two and a half hours had flown by, having stayed much longer than I initially anticipated.
At the event, I had the opportunity to meet many new people, including GISA President Jihane Atlassi ‘24, whom I was able to interview about the club. A senior communications major, Atlassi is in her second year as president of GISA, and after a successful first year, she aims to make her final one the best yet.
Being an international student herself from Morocco, she relishes her role as club president and the responsibilities that come with it. When I asked her why, she told me, “I like hosting different events for international students because I think they have very different experiences coming into the US, and there is a lot of culture shock.” She continues, “I think it’s important [to have] a space [for international students] to talk about it.”
However, International students are not the only target audience GISA is trying to reach; Atlassi believes the club offers American students an opportunity to explore and learn more about their foreign peers as well. “I think creating events for American students to learn more about International cultures and to be more involved and integrated in them is important,” she says. “It brings a lot of people together.”
Having amassed 141 club members, bringing people together seems like a manageable challenge for GISA.
With that in mind, Atlassi and the board have little intention of decelerating their ideas for the club. She let me know that GISA has multiple events in the pipeline for this semester: a trivia night, bonfire night, and an international music night on the horizon, as well as hinting toward an extravagant-sounding International Wedding where GISA and NSO (Nomad Student Organization) would potentially come together to host an event with multiple cultures combining into one big wedding ceremony. However, the idea is still in the early stages, and she jokes that there is still much to be done before taking it further.
All the events GISA puts on throughout the year build into its biggest annual one: The International Festival in the spring.
It’s a celebration where members show off their countries’ flags and traditional clothing in a parade before witnessing cultural arts performances (dancing, singing, instrument playing, etc.) and sharing food from different cultures and regions.
Having been a big hit to close out the 2022/23 academic year, Atlassi made no secret of how much she is looking forward to this year’s edition: “The international festival is my favorite part of GISA. There’s just so much culture in one night, and everyone’s very appreciative of it, which I really enjoy.”
With the ball rolling now, if given adequate funding, there seems to be no reason this can’t be a memorable year for Goucher’s international club, and Atlassi agrees.
When I asked her whether she is confident in Goucher providing the resources to succeed, she gave a big shoutout to Karen Sykes, the Director of International Student and Scholar Services, for her help as the international student advisor for the club, “She’s very helpful; not only does she help us [international students] with our Visas, but she also helps GISA when it comes to events and budgeting as well as working through challenges. She’s definitely helping us through a lot, so shout out to her.”
This year looks like another exciting one for GISA, with different events in the works and headlined by the international festival. Students could benefit from these opportunities, as the club is seemingly fully committed to making this year the best one yet.
By Theo Efron ’26