As current students prepare for finals and wrap up this summer session, there is another set of students that is just starting its Virginia Tech experience. These are our new international students.
While we often hear about new student orientation and transfer student orientation, we rarely hear about the needs of our new international students.
Did you know that there is an international student orientation period that is coordinated by the Cranwell International Center?
I suspect that many were unaware of this effort.
New international students started arriving on the campus since early next week, through the Smartway Bus or through shuttles provided by Cranwell.
New international students can’t enter the United States until 30 days prior to the start of classes, and they have to have all of their visa paperwork in order. Once they arrive, they are faced with the process of finding a place to stay.
During this initial three-week period, Cranwell provides students the opportunity to stay in temporary housing either on or off campus.
This provides a temporary base for them as they get settled and get all of their paperwork together.
They must get their new student ID, their new social security card, set up a bank account and find an on-campus job.
Another big factor is that they have to sign-up for their classes and meet with their academic advisors during this time.
For many, it is the first time that they have stepped foot on Tech’s campus, so they are also learning where everything is located.
For some, it is also the first time that they have left their home countries, sometimes leaving careers or families behind.
In many ways, it is the fulfillment of the American educational dream. Many have hopes that they can head back with their academic credentials and skills to make a difference in their home countries.
This can also be a period of extreme culture shock for these students. Cranwell provides student mentors who help new students in this period.
For example, they do shopping runs to Wal-Mart and other stores, as most of these students do not have cars.
In addition, Cranwell provides different activities so that the students can begin to build community here and get adjusted to Tech and the surrounding area.
Just this past weekend, the students were encouraged to attend the Steppin’ Out festivities.
This was a great opportunity for the students to begin to get a feel for life in Blacksburg.
When students come in, they have to check-in at Cranwell and they can begin to have access to the services provided.
This allows them to begin expriencing life in the United States and in Blacksburg before things get hectic with the start of classes.
Once the week of August 16th begins, a more formal orientation begins for these students.
One of the main goals is to try to give these students an experience similar to what new students got in the July orientation.
Why should these students miss out on the Hokie spirit that is generated during summer orientation in July?
These international students are not only undergraduate students but also new graduate students, so schedule of activities during this special orientation is geared according to their particular needs.
Included are immunization clinics, English placement tests, and workshops for new graduate students who are going to be teaching assistants.
Imagine if we didn’t provide these services for new international students.
It would certainly make Tech a much more cold and barren place for these students.
The efforts by the Cranwell International Center and the other offices that provide support for international students, such as the Graduate School, OIRED, and the Institute of Language and Culture, truly make a huge difference in terms of setting the environment.
While the journey for these students won’t be easy, they will benefit from the different services provided and the opportunities to get involved in the different student organizations and community groups.
Rather than keep these efforts tucked away, the university should give it the prominence that it deserves as compared to the other respective orientation sessions.