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Student advice helps enrich the U-M global experience

October 20, 2011
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Student advice

The discussion was designed to help the university enrich the experiences for international students and U.S. students who study abroad.

Suggestions ranged from providing more detail on the transition to life in the United States to going beyond study opportunities when offering information on international experiences.

The Oct. 4 exchange took place at a Student International Affairs Forum on the Ann Arbor campus. The forum was designed to get student feedback to make future international experiences as fruitful as possible. The event was sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

Stuart Roche, a kinesiology student from England, said he got basic information about U-M during International Student Orientation. But he thought more detailed information on student life could have been provided.

“I would have benefitted from more information on clubs or societies on campus, where to go for sports tickets, and more about the cultural side of the university,” he said.

LSA undergraduate Brittany Schwikert, who has studied abroad in Spain, suggested the university could collect and provide information on other student opportunities abroad, beyond academic programs. “The university needs to provide more information about international work experiences,” she said.

“This event is about the experience and things we can do to make the experience successful. It’s about meeting the needs of international students, and taking advantage of these international students’ experiences to enrich all our students,” said Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs.

The forum took place the day before President Mary Sue Coleman unveiled the university’s $50 million Third Century Initiative, which includes among key goals an increasing global focus.

Provost Phil Hanlon opened the forum, saying, “It is important for all our students to learn to work with people different from themselves. Our international student community, about 4,500 people, is a great resource for achieving that learning. We want to fully integrate them into campus life so that international and domestic students have opportunities to learn from each other.”

According to current predictions, 80 percent of future jobs will be created outside the United States.

“Today’s world is increasingly globally connected. Our graduates need to know the world,” Hanlon said.

With 4,500 international students on campus and more than 7,000 international faculty and staff, he said students also can learn about the world by exposure to the growing international campus community.

The forum included an International Fair where students could talk with groups promoting study abroad and greater awareness of other countries.

A key piece of the forum involved five groups of roughly a dozen students each, breaking into discussion groups. Participating international students and U.S. students were asked for suggestions on how to enrich their experiences and learn from one another.

Veronika Heine, a student from Germany, said she had been interested in participating in intramural volleyball, but didn’t learn about registering until it was too late. She said international students also could benefit from a workshop on how to make American friends.

“From an American perspective, we want to meet you guys. It’s exciting,” said LSA-engineering senior Julie Bateman, of Ann Arbor. She suggested that American students would sign up to help acclimate foreign students.

Sang-eun Park, an LSA freshman from Seoul, Korea, said, “Writing in English is difficult for me.” She said she had attended her first session at the Sweetland Writing Center, and the session was helpful. To help her better converse in English with American students, she said a teacher in the Residential College “helped me a lot.”

Of the forum, Park said, “It was a nice experience for me because I’ve always wanted to find somewhere I can talk about problems of the international students.”

LSA undergrad Schwikert agreed.

“I found the forum to be highly successful and was encouraged that the vice provost was responsive to student opinions,” Schwikert said, adding more sessions would be helpful.

Tessler said his office and a student advisory board created last year will review and share the input collected at the forum and will work to implement suggestions to enrich the global experience for all students.

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