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International student advising team expands, provides academic, financial support

Program Manager Emily Collins Garcia, Academic Advisor Jason Serrano join Assoc. Dean Chia-Ying Pan

The University’s international student advising team, which offers guidance to the international undergraduate community, has expanded over the last year to include two new team members: Emily Collins Garcia, international student program manager, and Jason Serrano, who serves as international student academic advisor.

“The international student advising team has existed in many forms over the years, usually ranging from one to two staff members, including one advising dean,” wrote Associate Dean of the College for International Students Chia-Ying Pan in an email to The Herald. The team currently has three members.

According to Pan, the team will “routinely address” topics including A-level and International Baccalaureate exam results, U.S. educational and banking systems, budgeting finances throughout the school year and health care.

Pan wrote that the team also “works closely” with the International Mentoring Program under the Global Brown Center for International Students and the Meiklejohn Peer Advising Program during training to “discuss topics that are specifically relevant to international students.” She added that the team hopes to continue their “collaboration with the Curricular Resource Center around various international student advising topics.”


According to Fanny Vavrovsky ’26, an IMP mentor from Austria, Pan gave her guidance on how to ensure “a smooth academic semester” when choosing courses. “She was really real with me,” said Vavrovsky.

“She really supports honesty with yourself and (with) others,” she said, adding that Pan encourages students to be honest “regardless of expectations of your friends, family or whole culture.”

The team also offers assistance beyond academic and financial advising, according to Serrano. “With international advising, there are so many additional layers,” he wrote in an email to The Herald. “You have immigration regulations, financial considerations, home culture, family dynamics, experience or lack of experience with the U.S. and U.S. academia — there’s so much to unpack.” 

Vavrovsky emphasized the unique challenges that international students face at Brown. “There are so many hurdles that international students have that other people don’t,” she said. “So it’s really useful to get support from the advising team.”

“I think one way to process difficult experiences … is to seek community and help, because the (staff) who work (with) international students really make you feel as if you had somebody in your corner,” Vavrovsky added.

According to Pan, throughout September, the team’s Academic Resilience @ Brown workshop series addressed topics “chosen based on focus groups and other feedback we received from international students,” such as navigating academic resources and employment options for F-1 visa holders. She added that the series provided “international students with resilience-focused tools and resources they need to embark on their academic journey.”

The “Dollars and Directions” sessions during GBC’s International Orientation “offered comprehensive financial advising support,” Pan wrote. Vavrovsky described the “practicality” of these sessions as encouraging students to assess their situations and providing concrete steps afterward.

To further understand the experiences of undergraduate international students at Brown, three focus groups were held last semester, Pan added. The data gathered were used to “inform future programs/services and policies that support international students at Brown.”

“During our focus groups, students told us that they really valued hearing about highlights of other international-identifying individuals’ journeys at Brown,” Pan wrote. These highlights have inspired the development of new outreach initiatives in spring 2024, which include a “newsletter that uses the power of storytelling” and a piloted “podcast that includes interviews with international students and international-identifying staff and faculty members.”

Students can nominate themselves or others in the Brown community to be featured in a podcast or newsletter, Pan added.


Even as newer members of the team, Garcia and Serrano said they are already looking forward to future developments. 

“I am … beyond enthusiastic that our team is putting our holistic advising approach to work,” Garcia wrote in an email to The Herald. “I am eager to see how the financial advising initiatives, such as international student financial wellness programming and the international student first-year financial cohort, will intersect with academic wellness and resilience.”

The advising team also hopes to streamline their “academic advising workflow,” Pan wrote.

Vavrovsky noted that her time as a student has had “ups and downs” — “but community is there to make it positive,” she said.

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Garcia recounted the “smaller” experiences she has while advising, like when “newer students stop by and share … their lives” and later become regulars in the office. “I feel beyond proud to be a part of those journeys and to know I have little pieces of who I am in people’s thoughts and actions throughout the world,” she wrote.

Kelvin Jiang

Kelvin Jiang is a section editor for University News and Science & Research at The Herald. Born in Illinois and raised in Palo Alto, CA, Kelvin is concentrating in math-computer science and applied math. He enjoys anything tech-related, being outdoors, and spending time with his cat.


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