NORTH BERWICK, Maine — Fiona Han, 22, stared at the red-and-white fishing bobber at the end of her jigging rod as it floated between chunks of ice in the water.
“I’ll never leave,” she joked. “Even though it’s a small one, I just want to see it!”
It’s Han’s first time ice fishing, and already a fish has eluded her twice, nibbling at her bait, but escaping just before she could snatch it up.
“I didn’t know how to catch,” she said. “Someone said I should not pull too fast. A slow pull and I will catch it.”
Han is an international student from China at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Mass. She was ice fishing Saturday afternoon at Bauneg Beg Lake as part of a program put on by the First Baptist Church in North Berwick and International Students Inc. to help the students get an American cultural experience.
ISI, a nationwide organization that educates international students about Christianity, does one field trip a month such as camping, hiking and canoeing.
“Once a month they get out to do something to be exposed to our small town,” said Mike MacDonald, one of the organizers and a member of the Baptist church.
He said the activities are a way to help change the perception of Americans.
“Most times when they see Americans on TV they think cops and robbers,” he said.
This month’s field trip to go ice fishing is able to take place because for two days Maine has free ice fishing, so no fishing license was required of students.
Students from all over the world, including China and Europe, attended the event, with 15 international students from the University of New Hampshire and 65 from colleges like Brown, Northeastern, the University of Massachusetts and Harvard. Some students brought their families. Thirty volunteers also were on hand to help students learn to fish. Afterward, students were invited back to the Baptist church for a dinner.
Natasha Hope is the Northeast Regional Field Director for ISI and helped arrange for students from further south to join in on the ice fishing.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “Many have never even done regular fishing … Some didn’t even know what a snowmobile was. They had fun even riding the snowmobile. They’re experiencing something indicative of the area … There’s not as much of an opportunity to get out and do things.”
Philip Webster works with ISI ministering to international students at colleges like UNH and the University of Southern Maine and said the monthly events are a great way for students to learn about American culture.
“It gives them a different experience,” he said, also adding that there is a bonus for the people who volunteer.
“It gives us a chance to know the students,” he said. “We’re together with them the whole time.”
For Han Ngn, originally from China and a UNH resident scholar, ice fishing was not only colder, but also harder than the regular fishing she is used to. She said she got three bites from her fishing hole, but had yet to catch a fish.
“You have to have much more patience and try to think about more ways to catch the fish,” she said.
For those who don’t catch fish, volunteers with experience ice fishing catch extras and make sure everyone who would like a fish receives one.
Yi Qin is originally from China, but works in a factory in Durham. He said he had fished several times in China and that it is his first time ice fishing. He said he enjoyed ice fishing, but found it more challenging because “you can’t communicate with the fish.”
“The ice breaks the communication,” he said, before adding with a smile, “If I can catch one (fish), that would be exciting.”
Copyright (c) 2011, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.