Nearly every student feels some beginning of the semester jitters. Being nervous about new professors, new people and for some a whole new school. The process of becoming an international student is one that many people go through to receive an education in the United States.
“The challenge actually starts before they even go through the application process,” said Director of International and Immigrant Student Services Kim Steinmetz. “They have to demonstrate their english language ability, that they have financial support and that they are able to come to the U.S. They can’t even get the document to get the permission to come until we see all those.”
These students cannot enter the country until 30 days before the start of the semester. This gives them less than a month to adjust to living abroad. Since the college is not a residential college, students must face the challenge of finding a place to stay along with the transition of moving to a new place. For many, this can induce a state called culture shock that causes those subjected to a new way of life to become disoriented.
“I think that’s part of the education process,” Steinmetz said. “To learn and not always succeed. It’s okay to have culture shock, it’s okay to have adjustment issues, it’s okay to not feel like yourself when you live abroad but I also hope that they can reach out to other students, both domestic and international, and make those connections.”
The school provides a variety of resources to international students who seek them out. These include the Conversation Partners program and the Homestay program. The Conversation Partners program gives them a partner to practice their English with. The Homestay program allows students with an F-1 visa to stay in an American home, providing them with a place to stay and a way to become accustomed to the new culture.
“It’s not like a room for rent type program,” said Steinmetz. “It’s more of a meaningful cultural exchange I think when you talk about successful cross cultural engagement there’s no better place than in the home, because that’s where you spend most of your time.”
Another way for international and domestic students alike to become involved is the International Club. The club holds different events such as food nights and movie outings to help its members get to know each other and the different cultures they share.
“We have our international education office that’s currently the host for the International Club,” said Coordinator of Immigrant Student Regulatory Advising and Support Services Patricia Donaldson. “That can be an opportunity for them to use as a resource and to find friends from the same countries, from other countries. To practice their language, to practice English.”
There are different ways for non-international students to help out international students. Inside of the classroom simply starting a conversation with them. Ask questions rather than making assumptions about where they are from.
“Make them engage in a conversation,” said Donaldson. “Most of them are shy at the beginning and it’s not because they’re really shy. It could just be that they cannot communicate well.”
The high number of international students at the college is part of what makes the school diverse. Domestic students that are willing to have open minds and welcome those who are here from another country can make all the difference to a person who is choosing to study in America.