4MILE Students
Bryant’s Multicultural and International Leadership Experience (4MILE) program helps international and domestic multicultural students acclimate to campus, discover the resources that will aid them in finding success, and form lifelong friendships. A session at the North Woods Challenge Course (pictured above) provides an opportunity to develop important connections with one another.
‘We have each other’: 4MILE forms bonds that transcend distance and last a lifetime
Sep 12, 2023, by Stephen Kostrzewa
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The Nitro line, the Swinging Island, the Spider’s Web, even the dreaded Mohawk Walk. At the North Woods Challenge Course in Kingston, Rhode Island, the incoming first-year students in Bryant’s Multicultural and International Leadership Experience (4MILE) program conquer these perilous challenges, as well as several others, on their way to their greatest triumph yet: beginning college in a new home.

Representing 19 countries, including India, China, the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, the students learn to work together, communicate, and share perspectives as they negotiate the course’s physical and strategic obstacles. By swinging, leaping, climbing, and balancing together, they learn to trust and understand one another as they aid their newfound friends — at some points lifting each other up physically as well as mentally.

At the conclusion of each session, the students reflect on how the lessons they were learning would help them throughout their college careers.

“There's going to be a lot of struggles and a lot of work these first few semesters, and it's going to seem very overwhelming at times because everything is so new to us,” says Gilberto Gonzalez ’27, who came to Bryant from San Juan, Puerto Rico. “But we have each other.”

The friends he’s met at 4MILE will be there to help catch him when he stumbles, he says, and he’ll be there to catch them. “This is going to help us remember that we’re not alone,” he says. “We’re building a family here.”

Forging connections, building confidence 
4MILE (The “4” is short for four milestones: cultural immersion, academic success, social networking, and career preparation) is a cultural immersion and leadership program uniquely designed for incoming international and domestic multicultural students. Held just before the rest of the students arrive at campus for move-in day, it’s an opportunity to make friends and get comfortable in a new place before the stress of the first semester hits.

Prof. Inci at 4MILE Luncheon
At the 4MILE Welcome Luncheon, students connect with Bryant University faculty, including Professor of Finance A. Can Inci, Ph.D. (pictured), and staff.

“Coming to college for the first time — especially when you're not coming with people you know, or people who are also from the same place you are, or even look like you — can be really lonely,” notes Brandi Gbemisola, 4MILE coordinator and assistant director of Bryant's Intercultural Center. “4MILE helps students connect with one another and find the friends and mentors that will be their support system throughout their entire four years at college and beyond.”

Bryant’s international and domestic multicultural students are ambitious, smart, and eager to enjoy life at college, says Gbemisola. But sometimes they need a little confidence. “Sometimes we have parents come to us who are so worried about their child. They say, ‘Oh, they’re so quiet, I don't know if this is going to work for them,’” she recalls. “And by the end of 4MILE, they've made tons of friends, they're no longer in their shell, and they have a newfound confidence boost.”

In addition to traditional orientation events like a tour of campus and a resource fair, 4MILE programming ranges from a workshop on study tips hosted by the university’s Academic Center for Excellence and Writing to a session on maintaining F-1 visa status to panels on diversity and sustaining your cultural identity. There are even sessions for parents who make the trip to campus on how they can best support their students, even from a distance.

“One of the best parts of being a 4MILE counselor is getting to know everyone and seeing how much they’ve changed and opened themselves up to others by the end.”

“The academic advising session was very helpful for me,” notes Megan Beasley ’27, who hails from Harrogate, England. “I wasn’t able to attend orientation because I'm an international student, so having that conversation explaining the process of college in America was useful because it's so different from everywhere else.”

The program introduces students to the broader Bryant community, as well. A welcome luncheon saw the 4MILE participants share a meal with Bryant faculty and staff, including Bryant President Ross Gittell, Ph.D.

“Everybody in this room is part of your support system: your fellow students, their families, the administrators here, the faculty here, your peer counselors — we are all here for you,” Gittell reminds the students. “And when you have questions or need support, where you need that extra hand, or somebody to talk to, all you have to do is reach out because we’ll all be here for you then as well.”

The community and the transformation 
The community Gittell referenced is at the heart of the 4MILE experience, says Gbemisola. “The students may forget some of the information from the sessions they take, but the friendships that they make — those connections they build together — that's something they'll never forget, and the biggest piece we hope they take away from the experience,” she states.

Trips off campus to Providence, Boston, and local highlights like the Lincoln Mall help acclimate the students to life in New England and the Smithfield area. Ice breaker activities, game nights — bowling and bingo are two of the favorites — and group meals help them get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere.

4MILE Counselors
4MILE Counselors Natalia Vela '25 and Juleidy Perez '24 and(center) offer advice, mentoring, and friendship to the program's students.

By the end of the week, the students have formed bonds that transcend hometowns, cultures, and sometimes even language barriers. “I feel like it was so cool to have so much diversity at once, especially because my high school wasn't that diverse,” says Anna Boranian ’27. “That’s one of the reasons I came to 4MILE. I feel like I've met so many different people here and they've all been so friendly and so fun to be around.”

Juleidy Perez ’24, who was a 4MILE participant in the fall of 2021, returned this year as a counselor for the second time. Her experiences with 4MILE, and Bryant’s Intercultural Center, she says, helped her to grow from a shy, quiet first-year student to someone ready to embrace everything her education had to offer. Plus, she notes, she made two of her best friends through 4MILE.

For Perez, that’s the true magic of the program. “One of the best parts of being a 4MILE counselor is getting to know everyone and seeing how much they’ve changed and opened themselves up to others by the end,” she says. 

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