While many CWRU students were saying goodbye to family or wrapping up summer internships two weeks ago, this year’s incoming international students took part in the debut of the International Student Orientation session.
As the number of students from around the world steadily increased throughout recent years, the need for a separate orientation period to welcome them to Cleveland became more and more apparent. So last school year, members of the SAGES program worked with administration to create such a session. Their hard work finally came to fruition Aug. 13-16 as CWRU’s first ever International Student Orientation (ISO) kicked off with great success.
Heading into the ISO, the overall goal was to make the onslaught of changing environments, peers, and responsibilities as unintimidating and comfortable as possible for the new students. Shengbo Wang, one of nineteen student ambassadors (equivalent of Orientation Leaders in regular sessions) claimed that the program most certainly achieved that goal.
“In past years, they were basically dropped off the plane” and had a much more difficult time “surviving in this new environment,” Wang said. He felt that this year’s incoming students seemed more relaxed during the four-day session.
The ISO began with an informal dinner hosted by CWRU’s Undergraduate Student Government to welcome the international students to the university. Once the ice was broken, the group then spent the next few days taking in the city of Cleveland. Wang said that the trip to an Indians baseball game at Progressive Field was one of the most interesting activities.
“Basketball is so popular in China, and the Europeans all have soccer…For many students it was their first time seeing a baseball game,” Wang explained.
After setting up bank accounts, purchasing cell phones, and learning about public transportation, the students delved into their true pursuit in coming to CWRU: school. They split up into various departments depending on their field of study and then met with deans and faculty within those departments to discuss the coming school year.
Wang said that the students first had to become educated on American university language, terms like major and minor, breadth requirements and similar issues. This made registering for classes much easier than in previous years, as the incoming international students did not have to struggle with their first-year advisers over unfamiliar terminology.
Sophomore Liwei Dong, who hails from China, took part in the inaugural ISO and he too praised the leadership during the difficult transition period. However, this was not his first orientation session designed specifically for international students. Dong spent his first year of college at Saint Louis University, which runs a similar program of its own for its international students. While he had already done things like set up a bank account and purchase a phone at SLU, he still enjoyed the more leisurely activities CWRU’s program offered.
Those who developed the ISO here at CWRU seem to have hit the nail on the head, as the biggest struggles Dong talked about were the exact same difficulties targeted during the session. For example, he said the biggest difference between classes in China and those in the US is that American courses are much more geared towards discussion, while Chinese classes are mainly lectures. In meeting with faculty prior to registration, the incoming international students gained a general understanding of how classes in the US are conducted and what is to be expected.
Dong also mentioned jet lag as one of the worst things about coming to college and being immediately active on campus. To counter that issue, the ISO’s directors designated two Arrival Days prior to the beginning of the session. This allowed students coming from all over the world to lay low for a couple of days and reset their internal clocks in order to make the most of their busy schedule.
The ISO proved to be a well-organized welcome session with keen foresight from its directors and student ambassadors. As more and more foreign students join the CWRU community, it seems that the International Student Orientation will continue to prove its value.