‘Life Stories’ game uplifts isolated internationals

Participants from all corners of the globe learn more about one another during activity organized by Mike and Heather Battig

April 9, 2020
Submitted story

Mike and Heather Battig figured out how to play this game called “Life Stories” with international students isolated on the Saint Michael’s campus recently, using Zoom as seen on the computer screen here.

“What better time than now to share ‘Life Stories’ (a board game) with Saint Michael’s College international graduate students isolated on campus?” So thought Mike Battig (Computer Science) and Heather Battig (Applied Linguistics Department or ADL) recently. Hence this past Friday night, they “Zoomed’ the non-competitive game with six eager participants in four different locations who originated from three different continents.

The Battigs managed the game board and pieces from their Westford dining room; visiting scholar to ALD, Gulnora Nasirova (Uzbekistan) who is hosted by the Battigs  joined in on her laptop upstairs, while MATESOL students, Isabel Sanchez (Nicaragua), Roni Medrano (El Salvador), and MEd student, Kamala Nasirova (Azerbaijan), played from their respective housing on/near campus.

Starting from one player’s description of little firecrackers “that you light fast before they explode in your hand” to another’s telling of Navidad festivities that launched “after midnight and involve dancing and feasting for three days,” the game time was quickly transformed into a night of recalling chapters from various participants’ lives.

One student told about her first day in the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar brimming with the pride and joy of the new beginning.  One remembered a special time cooking with her dad who “only occasionally brewed his own tea but one night made fried eggs and potatoes with me when mom was giving birth to my baby brother at the hospital.” Others described the hard things; a bicycle stolen in childhood – actually two bicycles stolen, the toll of unemployment, war, heart-rending sacrifices made by relatives to finance their education.

The resilience of the students displayed through these memories was not unlike what they are demonstrating now as their worlds have gone on tilt, the Battigs said.  They are separated physically from their Saint Michael’s community, whose support is enduring nonetheless as demonstrated by the work of the Alliot staff to provide nutritious takeout meals, and by English Language Programs Assistant Director, Chris Mager, delivering needed personal items.

Additionally, they are far from their homes and beloved family members during a time when merry thoughts of graduation festivities have been decisively shattered and students gasp to inhale all the uncertainties, including lack of plane flights, sparse opportunity for employment, and, in general, seemingly unreachable prospects for the future.

zoom screen internationals

These were the participants, all together on a Zoom screen, in the recent virtual game of “Life Stories.”

During the course of the Friday night game, one student recounted a lonely New Year’s Eve spent initially with no plans for frolicking with others. Then, this student told the group, the unexpected happened and an unanticipated bonfire and the televised countdown in NYC lit up the night with new traditions and opportunities.

“Something tells me these irrepressible students will likewise light up their respective worlds in the months ahead as this trying episode at Saint Michael’s becomes yet another chapter to add to their Life Story,” Heather Battig said.

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