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Saint Mary’s hosts orientation activities for international students

| Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Saint Mary’s welcomed 24 international students this past week from 10 different countries: some returning students, some new students. They attended both Belles Beginnings – the College’s orientation program – as well as an International Student and Scholar Orientation, which is a program designed specifically for them. The program introduces and orients international students with aspects of college and university life in the States, which may differ from what they’re used to.  

Adriana Petty, assistant director of International Student and Scholar Services, helps the students with logistics such as visas and more personal integration into Saint Mary’s, such as learning to adapt to the social and academic climate.  

“At the International Student and Scholar Orientation, the students learn about types of classroom experiences,” she said. “This includes class participation, where they can really share their opinions and offer perspectives. This is a shift for a few of them who are used to lecture courses with an emphasis on memorization. They discuss with the students, social involvement and how joining clubs, participating in activities and attending sports events can all contribute to their experience.”

In addition to orientation, Saint Mary’s also coordinates various events and programs to help the students become more comfortable with U.S. culture, Petty said.

The International Student and Scholar Services office provides monthly events for all international students and scholars to experience activities related to U.S. culture,” she said. “We have on- and off-campus activities to introduce the students to different cultural celebrations like U.S. holidays.”

Saint Mary’s students from the United States also have the opportunity to learn about different cultures from international students, Petty said.

“Saint Mary’s also plans events during the International Education Week, starting November 13, during which the international students get to share with the Saint Mary’s community about their own culture and country customs,” she said.

In addition to 19 four-year students, Saint Mary’s is also hosting one Fulbright scholar from China, two J-1 research scholars from Poland and China and two exchange students from South Korea and Tunisia. The four-year students originate from Chile, China, Spain, Rwanda, Vietnam, Mexico and South Africa, Petty said.

The International Student and Scholar Services helps international students focus on the positives when they have difficulties adjusting to the United States, Petty said. Some students start to feel overwhelmed or homesick, she said, while others who come from large cities sometimes find it difficult to adjust to the quiet environment of Saint Mary’s. Petty said almost all of the first-years talk about how different the U.S. education system is.

“We often talk about the fact that they are only here for a limited amount of time and to find ways to enjoy this unique and memorable experience,” she said. “The semester, year or four years goes by quickly, so even though there are many changes to become accustomed to, there are also a lot of new opportunities to make life-long memories … [and] make their time here as an international student or scholar a wonderful experience.

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