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International Student Experience Center fosters community, support

International students study, connect, mentor in New Dorm space established last spring

Staff Writer
Monday, April 16, 2018

The International Student Experience Center was created in May 2017 as a place to forge a sense of community and support, while simultaneously raising visibility and gathering resources for international students.

Following requests to increase support and resources offered to international students, the University created the International Student Experience Center in May 2017, said Christina Phillips, the center’s program director.

The center allows international students to connect with the University’s international community regardless of their country of origin, Phillips said.

With the creation of the ISE Center, Beatriz de Arruda ’19, who works as a coordinator for the International Mentoring Program, said she has seen a “huge difference on campus” over the past year.

“The international students have more of a sense of community and support. The center raises visibility and resources for” them, de Arruda said. Building a sense of community for first-year students is critical because “they’re so far from home,” she added.

The ISE Center also helps first-years transition to life on campus. “Cultural differences can be very difficult to navigate. For example, in some cultures, asking for help can have a different meaning than it has here, so people struggle with how to reach out for help,” de Arruda said.

As a mentor for IMP, Andrea Alvarado ’20 said she finds helping first-years adjust to University life to be very meaningful. “I’ve been able to share everything I’ve learned here and … provide support, especially for students from Latin America,” Alvarado said.

In addition to fostering a sense of community, the center functions as a study space for international students, Alvarado said.

The center — located in Vartan Gregorian Quad A — is just one component of the International Student Experience on campus. Students can also engage in programming, socialize and study at the ISE’s other space, The Globe, located in J. Walter Wilson, Phillips said.

The ISE Center houses IMP, which coordinates a four-day pre-orientation program for international students, trains mentors and plans programming throughout the year. Previously, IMP — which began in 1999 — was located in the Student Activities Office in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center.

In addition to the pre-orientation program, ISE helps organize events such as the IMP Gala, karaoke night, gingerbread house-making and conferences with CareerLAB.

These programs “make the family bigger and help (students) interact in meaningful ways,” Alvarado said.

“ISE makes it easier for people to find peers that have similar struggles and to have a sense of Brown (as their) home,” de Arruda said.

With the success they have experienced over the past year in helping first-year students, ISE is currently working on developing a similar support model for graduate students to begin during the next academic year, Phillips said.

But the University can still do more to help international students, de Arruda said, adding that the University’s need-aware financial aid policy hurts the diversity of the international community on campus.

“International students who do not apply for and receive financial aid upon admission to Brown are not eligible for institutional aid in subsequent years even if a student’s financial circumstances change or a sponsor discontinues providing support,” according to a University web page on financial aid for international students.

“If there is a huge crisis in your country and it changes your financial status, you cannot get financial aid to support your education. This creates a lot of financial stress for those people,” de Arruda said.

One Comment

  1. The Center can provide an important experience because being an international student away from home is isolating and difficult, compounded by our complex culture and language problems. Welcoming and assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources, including the White House, to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand.
    Something that might help anyone coming to the US is the award-winning worldwide book/ebook “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” Used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it identifies how “foreigners” have become successful in the US, including students.
    It explains how to cope with a confusing new culture and friendship process, and daunting classroom differences. It explains how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.
    It also identifies the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.
    Good luck to all wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who shout the loudest! Supporters of int’l students must shout louder.

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