Athens Business Adapts For International Student Customers

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The total number of international students at Ohio University has risen steadily in the past few years.  University statistics show in the fall of 2008, there were 1,160 international students on campus, compared to more than 1,400 in the fall of 2010.

More than half of those international students in 2010 came from China.  The population increase didn't go unnoticed. The CVS Pharmacy on Court Street attempted to bridge cultures.

 “Over the summer quarter I noticed we had a lot of Asian students come into our store. And there was a language barrier that I just had a really hard time communicating with them, finding out what they wanted,” said Keith Castle, CVS store manager.

As a result, Castle looked for a bilingual employee.  He hired Wendy Rong, a Chinese student who has been living in the United States for five years.

“A lot of my friends did have experiences like that. They came to find stuff, then they couldn’t find it and when they asked for help, people could not understand them,” said Rong.

Rong not only acts as a translator for people who struggle with the English language; she also came up with a few ways to make them feel welcome.

Rong suggested that her coworkers write their names in English and Chinese on their name tags. She also drew a poster that is now prominently placed beside the entrance doors with the store hours are written in Chinese.

“I think this poster is not just information for the store hours, it’s also a sign for international students to understand they would be taken care of,” said Rong.

As an Athens resident, Castle said he has observed changes when it comes to diversity in the city.

“It really seems like the numbers of Asian students are increasing as the years go on,” said Castle.

Ohio University currently has international agreements with 18 Chinese schools, more than any other country.