Sean Kim: International students: Take initiative

The presence of international students is growing on campus, and while it has gradually climbed to 12 percent, administrators hope to double that number over the next decade.

So the question becomes: What are the best ways to help international students adapt to a new environment and encourage them to get involved in campus life?

This semester, the Center for Student Engagement launched a pilot program that seeks to help international students navigate the student organization fair and learn how to get involved in different organizations on campus. The pilot was successful, and the CSE is looking to expand the program on a wider scale in the fall.

Special programming for international students is crucial, but at some point, it is the student’s responsibility to get involved. Regardless of how much the University or the International Services Office reaches out to individual students, international students have to take the initiative.

Transitions are never easy. But it is easy to feel lost in the first few months of college. As an international student, I was overwhelmed by the college experience my first semester. Initially, I was not very involved in campus clubs and organizations, despite the fact that some of my friends were extremely active. This semester has been different, largely because I chose to get involved in a number of student organizations.

Putting yourself out there is difficult, especially for students who are new to the community and the country. But it’s necessary. Step outside your comfort zone and seek out what interests you. It is the most effective way to make the most out of the college experience.

For most students, college is the place where they figure out what they want to do with their lives. And student clubs and organizations play a central role in that process.

The University works to assist international students academically as well. For example, the summer English for Academic Purposes courses are meant to help non-English speaking students prepare for college-level writing courses such as University Writing and Writing in the Disciplines classes. The English program allows students to get a few credits before they’ve even officially started freshman year.

Whether it is because of a language barrier or a cultural difference, some students may decide to never join a student club or organization. And that’s okay – not every student has to be involved in campus life.

But at the end of the day, the University can only do so much to ensure that international students are involved on campus. The responsibility is on the students.

Sean Kim is a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

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