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Ohio’s International Student and Scholar Services provide community, support and resources

Located at Yamada International House at 56 E. Union Street is an indispensable university resource: the International Student and Scholar Services, or ISSS.

According to the Ohio University website, ISSS "contributes to the global mission of Ohio University by providing services and support for the international community and by furthering their personal and intellectual development. In addition, we collaborate with the greater university community to advance global diversity on campus, to foster transformative intercultural experiences, and to promote the development of global leaders."

Aanya Datta, a senior studying psychology, said her first interaction with ISSS as an international student took place in 2020. Because classes were online, Datta was doing coursework remotely from Kolkata, India. ISSS staff helped her navigate online learning and process important paperwork via video chats.

During her time at OU, Datta said ISSS has been an invaluable resource. 

"They're always willing to help international students no matter how understaffed or how difficult it is for them to deal with the needs of so many students," Datta said. 

Datta explained that college transitions for international students can be especially challenging. Not only did she have to navigate being a new student, but she also had to figure out legal documentation, such as an I-20 form and a visa. Datta said ISSS helped her every step of the way. 

"On one side, you want to stay on the right side of immigration law and make sure that you don't make any mistakes and have the smoothest possible time while you're in the U.S. and on the other side, obviously you want that sense of social support for yourself," Datta said. 

Diane Cahill, director of ISSS, explained that ISSS aids students with immigration, cultural integration, well-being support, orientation and programming. 

Other ISSS resources include transportation, employment support, cell phone services and banking services. The goal is to provide international students with resources to ease the stresses of residing in a new country while balancing success academically and socially. 

"Immigration rules are complicated and being an international student can be overwhelming and lonely," Cahill wrote in an email explaining the importance of ISSS during international student transitions. 

After OU returned to in-person learning in 2021, Datta traveled from Kolkata to Athens for the very first time. During her first few weeks on campus, she said ISSS helped her navigate a new environment during international student orientation. 

"They have an entire week of activities planned for you," Datta said. "They take you around Athens, show you (East) State Street, help you set up like different services for your own self and then take you to resource fairs and just make sure that you're well imbibed within a college culture on a college campus."

ISSS orientation is an event that helps lay the foundation for student wellness and academic and living success. During orientation, peer advisors play an important role, Cahill said.

Hayden Kajfasz, a junior studying biology pre-med, took on the roles of ISSS peer advisor and housing coordinator to welcome new international students to OU this semester. As students arrived, Kajfasz would help answer questions about everything from social security cards to cell phone services.

"It's a whole new world and that's not even school-wise: It's your driver's license, how you get from point A to B, your phone," Kajfasz said. "I think that we were a good resource for not only education, but just life in everyday Ohio."

Peer advisors are current students who work with ISSS to answer questions about life in Athens and navigating college academically and socially.

After orientation and throughout the academic year, ISSS hosts numerous networking events for OU students. 

According to Cahill, ISSS staff is still working to finalize a program for the 2023-2024 academic year. Past social events include trivia night and an international women's coffee hour.

Datta explained that the events are engaging and fun for international and domestic students. She encourages everyone to join, network, and stop by open events to say "Hi."

"We are a very fun bunch of people," Datta said. "We love interacting with students from across the world, it doesn't matter where you're from."

ab532721@ohio.edu 

@abbyblosee

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