International Educator - March/April 2016 - 50

FOREIGN STUDENT AFFAIRS

Making a Campus
Feel Like Home
Adjusting to college can be difficult for any
student. But adding the challenge of living and studying in a foreign country-far
away from family and friends-can be overwhelming. While grappling with unfamiliar
cultural values and practices, many international students struggle to adapt to a system
of higher education that functions much differently from what they are accustomed to.
Many start this process as soon as students arrive on campus through international
student orientation programs that introduce
academic resources, immigration regulations, and student services, as well as give
international students a taste of campus life.
At Smith, International Students Preorientation (ISP) lasts about a week, with
leadership from members of the college's
International Students Organization. Along
with covering visa regulations and work
50  

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR M A R + A P R .16

International Students at Wellesley College

authorizations, ISP offers fun activities, such
as talent shows, roller skating and laser-tag
outings, and karaoke night to break the ice
and help students get to know each other.
"The ISP is really an integral part of our
international students becoming Smithies,"
says Caitlin Szymkowicz, associate dean for
international students and scholars at Smith.
"Generations of international students talk
about ISP as being the time they found their
community and the support they needed.
During this process, we focus on a lot of conversations with upperclassmen and with each
other to try to create those bonds. As international students go into their first year, even
if things get topsy-turvy because of cultural
adjustments or because of adapting to college, they have a community to fall back on."
Bryn Mawr established "conversation
groups" within the residence halls, with
trained student facilitators leading discussions
about the college experience-the struggles as
well as the joys. These weekly conversations
started out with a focus on international students but have grown to include U.S. students
as well, creating more opportunity for building bridges between cultures.
"The statistics tell us that international
students are doing fine," Sutton says. "They're
retained at higher rates than U.S. students,
they graduate more quickly than U.S. students
on average, and they have higher GPAs than
U.S. students on average. But we don't want to
just go with those kinds of measures. So part
of what we've been doing, of course, is having
these conversations where we really tap their
own experiences and assess what's happening
to them and finding ways to bring U.S. and
international students together more."
International students at Bryn Mawr also
can take advantage of perks such as a special

kitchen on campus where they can cook their
own foods and a worship room where students from different faith backgrounds can
schedule times to hold religious ceremonies.
"We've been working on integration and
connection and supporting international
students in maintaining their own cultural
systems so that they don't feel ripped out of
their own context totally," Sutton says.
Providing a welcoming environment for
international students often means adapting
standard campus services. Career services,
for example, may need to incorporate new
strategies to assist international students
in preparing for and searching for jobs in
their home countries. Student health centers
typically have a professional on staff with
proper training to guide international students through the emotional challenges of
adjusting to a new culture so far away from
family and friends. And Wellesley's English
Language Resource Center, for example, was
created for students whose first language is
not English, providing one-on-one tutoring
to develop oral and written language skills.
Mount Holyoke's McCulloch Center
for Global Initiatives-established in 2003
to support the college's strategic priority of
strengthening global competence among its
students-offers support for international
students, including orientation, advising,
guidance on immigration regulations, and
other special services. But the center also
brings together international and U.S.
students, providing special courses and
seminars, research projects, and international internship opportunities that prepare
students for global leadership opportunities.
In a Mount Holyoke publication celebrating the McCulloch Center's tenth
anniversary, alumna Nana Esi Hammah,

WELLESLEY COLLEGE

recruiting so that prospective international
students can feel good about the institution.
It's important for us to get different representatives on the ground to work with them."
Relationship building continues once international students are offered admission.
Mount Holyoke provides opportunities for
international students to get to know students
before they arrive on campus through the
Global Partners Program. Upper-class students who have completed learning abroad
experiences are paired with first-year international students and begin communicating
during the summer before the new students
arrive on campus. These long-distance connections plants seeds for growing community
during the students' four years on campus.
"This program helps the international
students to feel more like a part of the community before they even get here-they kind
of know the ins and outs personally," says
Donna Van Handle, dean of international students and a senior lecturer in German Studies
at Mount Holyoke. "They feel that they have a
better take on what the Mount Holyoke community is all about. That helps them with the
transition to studying in the U.S."



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - March/April 2016

Contents
International Educator - March/April 2016 - Cover1
International Educator - March/April 2016 - Cover2
International Educator - March/April 2016 - Contents
International Educator - March/April 2016 - 2
International Educator - March/April 2016 - 3
International Educator - March/April 2016 - 4
International Educator - March/April 2016 - 5
International Educator - March/April 2016 - 6
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International Educator - March/April 2016 - Cover3
International Educator - March/April 2016 - Cover4
International Educator - March/April 2016 - FCover1
International Educator - March/April 2016 - FCover2
International Educator - March/April 2016 - F1
International Educator - March/April 2016 - F2
International Educator - March/April 2016 - F3
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International Educator - March/April 2016 - F19
International Educator - March/April 2016 - F20
International Educator - March/April 2016 - FCover3
International Educator - March/April 2016 - FCover4
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