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‘A second home for our international students’: Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership welcomes international students

| Friday, August 23, 2019

Saint Mary’s opens its campus to women from all over the world, most of whom come from within the United States. Each year, however, a group comes which not only cross state borders but also international borders.

Advisor for international students Adriana Petty said this year’s students come from across oceans and borders including Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, China, Vietnam and El Salvador in addition to exchange students visiting for a semester from South Korea, Australia, Japan and China. Saint Mary’s will also host two Fulbright foreign language teaching assistants from China and Morocco.

Petty said College’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) operates as a transitional and intermediary force for international students.

“[The center] becomes a second home for our international students and scholars. We connect students to resources on campus,” she said.

These resources include the Writing Center, the Student Success Office, the Career Crossings Office and with individuals including Belle Sisters, Petty said.

Belle Sisters are “sophomores, juniors and seniors [meant] to help [new students] feel welcomed and to guide them through the social aspect of student life,” Petty said.

Petty said international students will have the opportunity to engage in the Saint Mary’s community as much as any other student while bringing with them the unique perspectives of their home countries.

“International students and scholars enrich our campus community by expanding our perspective as they engage in the classrooms, residence life and all aspects of campus life,” she said. “Having multiple global perspectives helps to think of issues from a more inclusive manner. It allows us to reshape our questions to find innovative solutions to the issues affecting us all.”

CWIL’s associate director for international education Alice Siqin Yang said in an email that international students’ contributions extend beyond the perspectives they bring to American students — they also bring their own tangible skills and resources.

“International students contribute to student success by helping American students gain the global skills needed to thrive in the global economy and greater appreciation of different cultures,” Yang said. “They also bring to campus their foreign language skills, resources, international networking opportunities and friendships.”

International students bring perspectives and unique qualities to Saint Mary’s, while the College and its community bring a sense of certainty and comfort to the table, CWIL staff said.

“Our international students all have different reasons for why they choose [Saint Mary’s], however, the majority of them have had some kind of relationship to [Saint Mary’s] before coming to Saint Mary’s,” Petty said. “Two of our first year students, for example, are Sister of the Holy Cross and familiar with Saint Mary’s College.

“Our exchange students have heard from either students or university advisers about our school and the kind of individual attention our students receive at [Saint Mary’s] from professors, staff and students, which provides them with a bit of comfort in making the choice to go to an unfamiliar place.”

Similar to Petty’s sentiment, Yang said comfort comes not only from Saint Mary’s individuals but also its all-female atmosphere.

“Saint Mary’s offers a safer environment for women students,” Yang said. “The international students are aware that they have more opportunities for leadership development.”

According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ website, Saint Mary’s is a part of the Bureau’s mission to, “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.”

This mission creates a multifaceted purpose for Saint Mary’s CWIL, Petty said, allowing students to cross international borders while on campus.

“Each international student and scholar brings with them talents and perspectives that make an impact on our campus, and we hopefully make an impact on their lives and in a way, planting seeds that will grow across the world in all the places the International Belles call home,” she said.

The program and its conductors bring students together from all around the world and help to change the way students approach dialogue with people from other countries, benefiting students and the college.

“International students help improve the quality of our higher education. They help us learn to avoid stereotyping and give us a better understanding of international issues,” Yang said. “They offer opportunities for our students to confront different interpersonal and communication styles. They diversify the campus, enrich our classrooms and thus turn Saint Mary’s into a globally engaged college.”

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