Understanding diverse students

Welcome Week does not cater to international students.

by Tiffany Trawick

Summer is arriving soon as I flip the page on my calendar to June, and with June comes orientation. We’ve all been through it; new students flood the campus with curiosities of what the University of Minnesota has to offer. This new population of students will come from all around the globe. As any returning student knows, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities maintains a very large campus and represents a wide variety of nationalities.

Last year, I, as an African-American, had the privilege of being roommates with two freshmen who had transferred to the University from China, and I was intrigued at how they had progressed in school. I remember them explaining how the first weeks were extremely difficult for them and how they felt Welcome Week didn’t take their differences fully into account during the process of starting their college education.

By the end of their first year they were well acquainted with the University, our culture and our food. In any similar scenario, such as studying abroad, one acclimates to their new environment over time and becomes a part of the community.

At the same time, I believe my former roommates were very representative of the international population’s effect on natives of the U.S. If we take the time to get to know one another we can learn a lot about other people and their cultures. There are certainly rewards in this, as this past year I even learned how to make authentic Chinese food!

All in all, reassessing the orientation schedule, I was pleased to see that there is a separate orientation just for international students. A unique experience is very important as there are many other challenges and barriers that international students will have to go through that most of the student population will not.

I also have come to know that one of my former roommates, “Mickey,” as we called her, will be a Welcome Week leader herself this year, sharing her personal experience and knowledge as an international first-year student.