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ND International welcomes students to campus

| Friday, August 20, 2021

As students from all corners of the globe embark on their journeys to campus, Notre Dame International has been preparing a welcome program called international student orientation.

This year’s group of international students includes the class of 2025 incoming first-years, class of 2024 incoming sophomores arriving on campus for the first time after being denied a student visa due to COVID-19 and exchange students. These students primarily hail from China, Brazil, Canada, Korea, Panama and India, but they also represent a variety of European countries as well.

International student orientation occurs Wednesday, Aug. 18 and Thursday, Aug. 19 before domestic students arrive for Welcome Week starting on Friday, Aug. 20.

Leah Zimmer, a director of international student and scholar affairs (ISSA), explained that Wednesday is less formal, allowing students to check in and get settled. During the day, the ISSA team runs shuttles to stores and other essential locations to help students become acclimated to campus.

“Wednesday, we’ll have basically orientation check in,” Zimmer explained. “Some students are arriving in the U.S. that day, and we’re welcoming them and making sure that they have a friendly face when they arrive on campus.”

International students are welcomed with an official lunch Thursday along with an afternoon of activities catered towards adjusting to college life. Zimmer said these programs include learning about U.S. healthcare, U.S. bank accounts, phone numbers and Midwest culture.

The ISSA also offers visa training. Zimmer’s team teaches international students about their student visa responsibilities. Students can enter the U.S. with either a J1 visa or an F1 visa. Four-year degree students hold F1 visas, whereas exchange students studying for only a semester at a time use J1 visas.

Unlike domestic students, international students are not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to matriculate for the Fall 2021 semester. Zimmer explained that students were allowed to apply for an exemption.

“[International] students did have to report that they needed an exception for arrival, and then they’ll be going through the vaccination process,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer also mentioned all international student orientation programming will be conducted according to updated COVID-19 mandates from the University.

Along with Zimmer’s ISSA team, a group of student leaders, called international ambassadors, also help international students learn the ins and outs of life at Notre Dame.

“They do pretty extensive work over the summer — connecting with students, answering questions, hosting zoom calls. Then when the students arrive, they’re helping them do sort of that initial community building,” Zimmer said of the student leaders.

International student orientation concludes with an activity night and bonfire. Class of 2025 international students then join their first-year peers for Welcome Week beginning Friday.

Zimmer explained that international student orientation helps bridge the initial gap after arriving on campus. Students are still required to participate in Welcome Week.

The two welcomes are not intended to be repetitive, Zimmer said, but to help prepare international students for both their first semester at Notre Dame and their time as a U.S. resident.

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