International Student and Scholar Services offers a full orientation program for new international students in mid-August, as well as other welcoming events. Individual student groups also offer welcoming events. However, international students may have a difficult time assimilating into the campus community because of cultural differences and the difficulties that are inherent with moving to a completely new environment and the rigors of academic requirements. In addition, graduate students may wish to have more interactions with other graduate students and faculty, rather than the general student population that will attend the open gatherings. Departmental attention should be paid to the specific needs inherent in a transition such as the one our international students must make. The following suggestions are offered with this in mind.
- Encourage new international students to attend the International Student and Scholar Services office's program and events.
- At orientations and/or welcoming receptions acknowledging the presence of the international students; recognize the countries and languages that are represented; acknowledge that all students bring new viewpoints and ideas that will enrich the department.
- Many international students (particularly graduate students) feel isolated within departments and are hungry for faculty guidance. Encouraging them to attend conferences, giving them the opportunity for one-on-one interactions, and generally showing interest in the student can help to alleviate the feeling of isolation. One suggestion is to have one (1) faculty member assigned to the task of insuring that internationals receive adequate mentoring opportunities. This faculty member may act as the central point person for international students within the department, conducting focus meetings with current and incoming students and fielding questions and comments.
- Assign 2nd year graduate students as "buddies" for arriving international students. There are many questions new international students have that they are more comfortable asking an experienced student than they would be asking faculty or staff.
- Hold focus groups with new international students and encourage them to voice any questions and difficulties. They can also offer great suggestions for making the department more comfortable and welcoming for international students.
- International students are not always aware of many of the customs traditions, holidays, and observances here in the United States. Understandably, many of the home traditions, customs, and holidays of the international students are not known or acknowledged in the department either. Taking the time to acknowledge some of these holidays and traditions would go a long way toward making the international students feel more included in the life of the department and the University.
- More attention should be paid on programming designed to integrate domestic and international students from the moment they arrive on campus. Social gatherings should not be limited to pizza and beer; ask the international students to suggest a menu they would enjoy for some event. It would also be good to incorporate an icebreaker at the beginning of events to encourage everyone to meet and talk to one another.
- Try to notice world news that is happening in the homelands of your students. News from home can be very much on the minds of these students, and a word from you about the events would be most welcomed.
- Call on international students to present a specific issue as it relates in their home country and/or culture.