Students from countries around the world spent Wednesday afternoon exploring downtown Longview.
About 60 LeTourneau University international students took part in a tour to learn more about their new town.
The students broke up into groups of 10 to 15 and could choose from four places to visit: Heartisans Marketplace, Roma’s Italian Kitchen, Silver Grizzly Espresso and Hick & Frog Bistro. The groups then met up at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts.
Sonita Thai, a freshman nursing major from Cambodia, said she was excited to do some hands-on crafts at Heartisans, such as make a candy called Texas Trash.
Even though the Trinity School of Texas graduate has lived in Kilgore for a couple of years, Thai said she did not know about some of the places they were visiting.
“It’s nice we get to know each other,” she said. “We form a group and everything; we talk and visit here; it’s a new place for me. It’s really cool.”
The students at Heartisans got to make coasters, window cleaner and explore how other products at the shop are made.
Heartisans Marketplace, which opened in fall 2014, offers a customized job training program for unemployed and underemployed women. The organization’s work is supported in part by a manufacturing business in which handcrafted items made by skilled volunteers and program participants are sold in its store in downtown Longview and in other venues.
In previous years, LeTourneau has sent its international students on a scavenger hunt through downtown, International Studies Officer Sarah Epling said. But this year, the program was changed because of an increase in the number of students.
After visiting their locations, the students were to write and post Google reviews about where their group went, she said.
“I picked four places that I know are popular with college kids,” Epling said. “Heartisans, they can come here to get souvenirs or gifts to take back home with them. Heartisans, I think in particular, has a very cool business model in a way that it serves the community. It’s not just about the profit themselves. A lot of our students are interested in how to do something like this back home.”
Silver Grizzly Espresso was an obvious choice, Epling said, because college students love coffee.
The owner of Hick & Frog Bistro speaks French, like many of the students, so it is a chance for them to speak with someone and use their native language, she said. And Roma’s Italian Kitchen provides a venue for students to just hang out and enjoy pizza, Epling said.
Susuana Acquah of Ghana, a freshman studying aeronautical engineering, said she likes being able to get to know the town off-campus.
“I like the idea behind (Heartisans),” she said. “Supporting the woman to support her family, that’s really nice. There’s so much love in here.”
Acquah has lived in the U.S. for a year. She was an exchange student at a high school in Michigan.
“I really like the people. The people are so nice, so welcoming, so warm. I really appreciate that,” she said of Longview. “The weather is a little too hot, but that’s fine. The people cover it up.”