Pittsburg State’s International Programs welcomed 65 new international students from Jan 9 to Jan 11 for an international student orientation. The orientation serves to help incoming international and exchange students prepare for the upcoming semester and to help smooth their transition to American life.
Brenda Hawkins, immigration and advising coordinator, said the orientation “helps with a lot of the logistics of starting school at PSU.”
“It helps students check-in and get some of the processes like health insurance, TB tests taken, immunizations checked, as well as getting enrolled done,” Hawkins said.
The orientation began with a registration day where students get their PSU ID’s, any required immunizations, and get them logged on and accustomed to the computer system. The new students, representing roughly 40 nations, are split up into groups of eight and put with an orientation leader that is an International Advocate (IA).
Alexandre de Lacerda, sophomore in finance, was one of the orientation leaders and an IA. He is an international student from Brazil and said he decided to apply to be a leader for orientation after he had “awesome leaders” during his time in orientation, and thought it was his time to help new students.
“… I coordinate people,” Lacerda said. “I have two to three volunteers to help me and we take care of… Students with different nationalities. What we do is go through some stuff they got to do, like get PSU cards, go to housing, there are some lectures they got to take, and different stuff they (have to) know once they got here.”
Throughout the orientation, campus faculty and organizations give presentations about various resources available to students on campus, such as the Writing Center. Additionally, topics that orientation leaders think are especially relevant or important will be given, such as phone and email scams.
Bianca Benitez, student from Paraguay, will be in the Intensive English Program (IEP) at PSU for two months, found the orientation helpful in her transition to the university.
“I learn much, I know other people, it’s pretty good,” Benitez said. “I learned the rules and regulations for the university, how to move the people here, I learn the history of the university and the building.”
Although the orientation helps with a lot of the technicalities of preparing for the school year, the purpose of the orientation is not only to help students with the logistics of starting university.
“… It’s to help international students with some coping skills and some cross-cultural skills so they can acclimate to the culture as quick as possible,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the Pittsburg community was also very involved during the orientation.
“… Every evening we would go to a community group such as a local church or international friends of Pittsburg and they would provide free welcome meals for the students,” Hawkins said.
Janette Alatalo, junior in Finnish language, said one of her favorite memories were the meals in the evenings after long days of lectures.
“I enjoyed meeting Americans… during the dinners,” Alatalo said. “I got to know many great people, and also I got to know the other international students.”
Overall, Hawkins said she hoped everyone would finish orientation feeling welcomed and prepared.
“I hope they feel very welcomed as a new student and are a little more prepared for their classes and to succeed in their academics,” Hawkins said. “I also hope they learn some about the culture, so they can understand the differences and apply that to be good students.”