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Resources make transition easier for international students

2/3/2017 2:29:24 PM

Life in the U.S. and on campus can be bewildering for international students who have left everything familiar behind in order to study at Illinois. The university offers many resources available to help make the transition easier.

Welcome Receptions and Orientations: In addition to orientation sessions for all new graduate and undergraduate students, the College of Engineering hosts a reception each year to welcome international students and their families. The reception gives students a chance to meet members of the College’s leadership team, and learn about campus resources available to both parents and students. 

For students participating in CEE’s 3+2 B.S.+M.S. program, a reception at the beginning of the fall semester gives newcomers an opportunity to meet and mingle with CEE staff and faculty, as well as returning 3+2 students. Later in the semester, a luncheon for first year 3+2 students gives them a chance to talk to faculty, administrators and each other about some of the challenges and successes they’ve experienced. The luncheon allows program administrators to check in with the students outside of the classroom, and further fosters a sense of community. 

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS): ISSS serves the international student population through advising, immigration services, programming, advocacy and outreach. ISSS maintains a website (isss.illinois.edu) loaded with helpful information, and they also hold orientation sessions covering topics such as student insurance/healthcare, maintaining visas, banking and safety. Through ISSS, international students can get help with problems, participate in a variety of activities designed to help them adjust to life on campus, make new friends, practice English, and connect with other students and local community members.

Student Organizations: Student organizations are another way for international students to be active in the campus community and meet others with similar interests. In addition to the many campus-wide international student groups (such as the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the Muslim Student Association, and International Illini), there are several that are geared specifically to CEE at Illinois students (cee.illinois.edu/studentorgs). Most student organizations hold social events throughout the year, as well as regular meetings, giving members a chance to form friendships, support each other academically, and in some cases, network with industry professionals. 

Department Events: All students are encouraged to attend department-sponsored events, such as Backpack to Briefcase (CEE’s professional development seminar series), networking events, special seminars by returning alumni, and a variety of academic and social opportunities throughout the year.  CEE staff and faculty want students to have the best possible college experience, and are always available to help.


Grad student offers tips to new students

CEE grad student Guillermo Dankert remembers the personal and academic challenges he faced as a new international student, particularly during the first semester. He has since learned a thing or two. 

Dankert, who is from Buenos Aires, noted that all international students are in a similar unfamiliar situation when they arrive on campus. He said that by just exchanging a few words with others you can start creating relationships that will turn into a circle of close friends.

“[T]ry to be as open as possible, especially in the first weeks—that is when we have more time and when we may feel more alone. Be kind and just try to start talking to each person you meet, let them know where you are from and where you live,” he said.

Dankert was quickly able to expand his social circle by joining a soccer team and connecting with the local Argentinean community via Facebook. Meeting other Argentinians helped make things more “friendly,” especially at the beginning, he said. 

Dankert warned that the first two months can be especially hard for students who are not native English speakers, because listening to, reading and speaking another language non-stop can be very tiring. Additionally, he said that by the time the third month rolls around students may feel particularly homesick, and that family members back home may not fully understand the challenges of living abroad. 

“Don’t give up. After the finals everything comes back to normality, and by then you are going to feel that Urbana-Champaign is your home,” he said.

 

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