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Saint Mary’s welcomes international students

| Friday, August 19, 2016

Saint Mary’s welcomed nine international students into the class of 2020 during orientation weekend. The international students, who come from three countries, participated in Belles Beginnings – the College’s orientation program – as well as an orientation designed specifically for international students.

Adriana Petty, assistant director of international student and scholar services, said her job is to aid international students with the process of coming to the United States.

“My main job is to help students with any visa questions,” she said. “I run programs that are about getting acclimated with Saint Mary’s life and United States culture. … I encourage them to take part in clubs … because most of the students tend to focus only on their academics. Whether they’re here for a semester, a year or four years, it’s really to try and help them get into the Saint Mary’s community.”

According to Petty, students have different options in regards to the orientation process.

“There is the Belles Connect programming, where incoming freshmen are partnered with a counselor who is a student who knows Saint Mary’s well and can serve as a mentor,” she said. “There are four incoming international students in Belles Connect. Then there is Belles Beginnings, which is the normal orientation that all new students go through.”

Petty said the students participated in the international orientation to help them transition not only to college, but also to college in a different country.

“At the International Student Orientation, we teach them how to maintain their international student status, what programs they can do on campus, [how to work] on campus as an international student [and about] internships and life after graduating,” she said.“We talk about campus life because it’s a whole new way of life for some of them. Some of the things they have to become used to, it helps to have repetition.

“The nice option is that if they come early, they have a chance to become acclimated to the time change and hearing English all the time.”

Petty said international students participate in an international education week in November.

“They come and display their culture and countries in different ways, such as teaching a dance or wearing their traditional clothing and describing it,” she said.

Petty said in addition to the nine international students joining the class of 2020, there are also other students on campus from different countries.

“Seven are from China, one from Thailand and one from Vietnam,” she said. “There is a student from Tunisia here for one year through an exchange program, a South Korean exchange student here for a semester and a faculty Teaching and Learning Scholar from China [who] will be teaching conversational Chinese. All but one of the first year students have spent at least one year of high school in the United States.”

Suchaya Wanasathop, an international first year student, said she has had previous experience traveling abroad.

“I was born in Bangkok, Thailand,” Wanasathop said.“My siblings were born in Switzerland and France because my parents worked as business ambassadors. My family likes to travel a lot. When I was little I went Cambodia and Singapore and when I was 10 we took a trip to France and drove to Switzerland and stayed with my parents’ friends. … When I was 12, my parents sent me to Costa Rica, where I attended camp with two boys and two girls from Thailand and met students from 12 different countries.”

Wanasathop said she chose Saint Mary’s because she wanted to travel to a new destination.

“I knew an old professor at Notre Dame who said that Saint Mary’s is a really good college and I should come, and I would be happy there,” she said. “I wanted to explore another part of the United States … ”

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