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University eases transition for international students with orientation, Welcome Weekend

| Friday, August 17, 2018

Every year before upperclassmen arrive back on campus in August, freshmen pour in to South Bend from all over the world to start their college careers during Welcome Weekend. However, for international students, the college introduction process starts a bit earlier.

Director of International Student and Scholar Affairs (ISSA) Leah Zimmer said Notre Dame welcomed 300 students to campus from 80 different countries during International Student Orientation on Aug. 14-16, before the rest of the student body arrived. Zimmer clarified that though freshman international students participate in Welcome Weekend events, their orientation for both graduate and undergraduate students differs from the traditional freshman orientation because it starts much earlier.

“Through International Student Orientation we want students to have a strong sense of welcome and connect with other students experiencing the same distance and transition to Notre Dame and the U.S.,” Zimmer said in an email.

Ana Freiburghaus, a junior from Panama and member of the Welcome Weekend team for international students, confirmed that international student orientation is a separate entity from Welcome Weekend for the entirety of the freshman class.

“Because it is only for international students, you get to meet other people from your region and that speak your native language,” Freiburghaus said in an email. “It is very different [from] Welcome Weekend.”

Zimmer said orientation for international students differs from Welcome Weekend because it is designed to introduce students to life in the United States as well as life at Notre Dame.

“Since not all students have visited campus before, we are also creating opportunities for them to explore and become familiar with the space before the intensity of welcome weekend,” Zimmer said. “Students can set up a U.S. phone or bank account at our Resource Fair, or they can connect with different resources and student clubs. And, as many of our international students are here on a visa, we use orientation to help them develop an understanding of their responsibilities as visa holders — what to do before traveling, how to get work authorization and what information and documents do they need to maintain.”

Beyond orientation and Welcome Weekend, Zimmer said Notre Dame continues to assist international students with the adjustment to college in the United States throughout the year.

“We’ll be coordinating smaller dinners throughout the fall, both in the residence halls, with the International Ambassador groups, and off campus to check in with students and hear about their experiences and what we might do to help in that ongoing transition,” Zimmer said. “There is an International Student Support group with UCC that we hope to expand, which gives space to students to talk about the cultural adjustments they’re experiencing; it’s been really powerful for students who have been involved. And we’re excited by the response to programs like Football 101 that will help students understand significant pieces of Notre Dame and U.S. culture, like American football or faith in the U.S.”

Freiburghaus said she was enthusiastic about the unique and important impact that people from around the world bring to Notre Dame.

“I believe that the most important perspective that international students bring to campus is their cultural knowledge,” Freiburghaus said. “I am always fascinated when I am walking around campus and I hear people speaking in different languages. I believe that a place as rich in spirit and community such as Notre Dame has been able to build a great community because of the diversity of its students.”

Zimmer echoed Freiburghaus’ sentiment, expressing admiration and pride in the new class of international students who will soon be part of the Notre Dame community.

“It takes a particular courage and curiosity to leave home and take on a new culture, and we have hundreds of brilliant, engaging students from more than 80 countries who have chosen to do so at Notre Dame,” Zimmer said.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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