From abroad to broader awareness

The University’s international students face more hurdles than the typical student does.

Tiffany Trawick

Preparation for the new school year always has its challenges, from registering for classes to moving into the residence halls. There is always so much to get used to in so little time. However, as seamless as the transition may seem for the majority of us, some students have much more to get accustomed to.

Moving into my residence hall this year, I couldnâÄôt help but notice that a lot of the residents didnâÄôt just come here from across the country but rather from across continents. This new awareness caused me to wonder what it must be like facing all of the regular challenges of adjusting to college while also having to deal with the additional challenges of communication barriers, navigating an entirely new country and culture shock.

Two students, Huanhaun Zhu, who goes by Mickey, and Yuhui Zhang, who goes by Stephanie, shared their unique experience of traveling from China to go to school here at the University of Minnesota.

Both Zhu and Zhang are freshmen this year, as part of the class of 2015. Each had different methods to prepare for their first year at the University.

Zhang arrived in Minnesota two weeks before the start of the fall semester. She says the biggest things that helped her prepare for the school year were her own personal endeavors. The week before school started, Zhang spent most of her time finding the whereabouts of places such as classrooms, restaurants and the nearest Target. Even before Zhang arrived here, she spent two years out of school on her own studying a range of materials from English high school textbooks to movies such as Mean Girls and High School Musical in order to prepare for school within the American culture.

While she notes that the University did a wonderful job of making her feel as though she belongs through programs like Welcome Week, she also spoke of the frustration of knowing that most of her peers outside of her international orientation group are simply unaware of the additional barriers that she must overcome in order to be successful.

Zhu has the same frustration. Zhu, unlike Zhang, spent three years in Minnesota before coming to the University. After figuring out that Welcome Week was more than just a tour, she found the UniversityâÄôs freshmen preparation programs very helpful and the resources offered âÄî for example, the career center âÄî useful.

But, like Zhang, she couldnâÄôt help but notice that most of her fellow students outside of the international orientation group interacted with her as though she had the same upbringing they did. She had difficulty communicating, saying that often people talk too fast.

The University has almost 5,000 international students, which is roughly 7 percent of all students. With such an international population, it may be beneficial for the University to help make new students aware of and sensitive to the different backgrounds and challenges of our classmates that come from so far away.

The University could provide more information on international students and could initiate more integration with American students. This would benefit both groups by giving them a more intimate understanding of each other and their respective backgrounds. Thus, the University could live up to its motto, âÄúDriven to DiscoverâÄù âÄî in this case, driving its students to discover a broader world through the diversity that exists right here on campus.

 

Tiffany Trawick welcomes comments at [email protected]