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Hyunjung Jeon, (now graduated) student studying war and peace, poses for a portrait in Baker Student Center. Hyunjung is an international from South Korea who is a part of the Global Conversation Partner program at Ohio University

International students get welcomed to Athens with orientation, social events

International Student Orientation (ISO), which is about two weeks long, is specifically created for the graduate and undergraduate international students. It welcomes students to Ohio University and introduces them to American culture. 

The orientation helps students with immigration paperwork and holds mandatory information sessions on topics like Title IX, graduate student success, living in Athens and more. Social events are typically also held in Donkey Coffee and Espresso, Rollerbowl Lanes and other locations.

This fall, there are about 243 incoming international students from about 59 countries. The number increased from last year, as there were only about 170 incoming international students last fall. 

Viktoria Marinova, graduate assistant for International Student and Faculty Services Orientation, believes ISO went well because she received emails where people talked about how much they enjoyed it. She was especially proud of her team for working hard for the past few weeks. 

“My team works really hard in both mandatory stuff as well as the social activities to make everybody feel welcome,” Marinova, who is studying public administration, said. “And, to make them feel like they are having a good time.”

During ISO, Marinova and her team organized events that were aimed specifically at inculcating students into university culture. Marinova highlighted one of her events — a social in Donkey Coffee and Espresso — which she deems an Athens staple. 

“We do have a whole bunch of programming that is designed to help students understand what is going on,” Marinova said. 

Marinova also highlighted the living in Athens session, which was presented by peer advisers  who provided students with information on how to get a driver’s license, student ID, state issued ID, social security number and more. 

“We definitely try really hard to give as much information as possible,” Marinova said. “We make sure that they know (we) are available to ask us questions if there is something they did not understand or hear or might have forgotten about.”

International Student and Faculty Services organizes events throughout the semester with the help of Global Connections to connect international students with domestic students. However, Marinova wants to improve the ISO by providing a platform for relationships between the domestic and international students. 

“Sometimes, there tends to be a gap,” Marinova said. “Both parties are very guilty of it.”

Boy Dhessa Pasha, an incoming graduate international student from Democratic Republic of the Congo studying communication and development studies, found ISO intense and was expecting something less heavy. 

“But, it was worth it,” Pasha said. 

Pasha believes ISO does not give international students a chance to connect with domestic students. He said during ISO, he could only hangout with other international students. 

“It’s just a place where just a group of international people gather,” Pasha said. “You don’t really get to meet the local ones.”

Pasha wants to improve that connection by increasing opportunities for social events and by making them mandatory. He wants to attend one or two major events per day instead of having them throughout the entire day. 

“It’s not helpful to put social activities in the same day when you had a busy day with mandatory activities,” Pasha said. “So, social activities should be put in days when people can know at least that my main reason to go to campus today is social activity.”

However, Gaone Manatong, a graduate student studying communication and development studies, believes ISO is a great opportunity to make friends with other international students. 

“It’s very important to attend all these things, even if you’re tired,” Manatong said. “During orientation, that's when you make friends with which you’re going to spend the semester or year with."

Manatong also observed graduate international students being more forthcoming and participatory than a handful undergraduate students. She believes ISO is an important first step to get accustomed, not necessarily to the American culture, but to understanding how the university works.

"The welcoming part of ISO is very important for somebody coming from a different country and coming to a country like America to know they are welcome here, to know they are wanted here," Manatong said. 


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