Despite UR’s attempts to welcome the about 23 percent of undergraduate who’ve come from abroad to study here, many of those students are left feeling disconnected from some aspects of campus life.
Students’ Association (SA) Senator Beatriz Gil—a sophomore from Barcelona—is trying to address these concerns through her International Students Project. Since October, Gil has been working on developing the framework for this project to be implemented.
The International Students Project involves the creation of a committee of students who will discuss and work on several subprojects as well as listen to and address the concerns of current international students.
The committee, which Gil hopes will be formed within the coming week, will consist of 25-30 international students, a representative from each endorsing student organization, and a representative from the University administration. Subcommittees will be formed to work on each subproject, and work will be consolidated via Google Drive.
She cited her training to be a Writing Fellow as inspiration for the project.
“I am a Writing Fellow,” Gil said. “During the class our final project was targeting international students. I was trying to find out why a lot of international students don’t like going to the Writing Center and what problems its has.”
Gil has identified nine subprojects for the committee to address over the coming year.
From Getting Here
“From the beginning, I felt like things were lacking or could be done better,” Gil said of when she first arrived on campus. “When we arrived, for example, as an international student, we weren’t received by anybody. But when everyone, national students arrived, they were received by the whole community.”
Gil is looking to work with the D’Lions and Residential Advisor program to give international students the same welcome as domestic students, as well as have them encourage international students to get involved more on campus.
She envisions large-scale changes in international student orientation.
“When I wrote this, I was thinking more about the session that they explain to you how Americans behave,” Gil said. “I understand that the intention is to help you to integrate better but sometimes how it comes off, it was more like, ‘This is how Americans behave. This is how you have to behave.’ My goal with that was to have a combined thing [with] international students and national students. So I’m trying to get it instead of targeting a certain group, having both groups and having them explain to each other how they both are and how they are portrayed.”
Gil hopes that her project will review and improve International Services Office (ISO)’s mentorship program for international students, as well as set up an email system for international student applicants to communicate with current UR international students from their home country to ask questions about life at UR and college in general.
To Getting Involved
Despite a nearly 80 percent international student involvement rate in extracurriculars as of April 17, Wilson Commons Student Activities (WCSA) reports that only 12% of the over 1,300 students on organization e-boards are international students.
When taking a look at Greek Life, this number drops even further. WCSA data shows that just under 7 percent of the nearly 1,000 students in fraternities and sororities are international students.
Gil wants to increase both of these numbers so more international students are involved in both Greek Life and leadership positions on campus.
One such initiative in the works is a poster project to feature international students in leadership positions.
“It’s going to be something that every single student will be able to see,” Gil said. “It will be showing the faces of international students that hold leadership positions on campus, where people may not know that they’re necessarily international students. When the new incoming freshman class comes in […] they can reach out to them.”
Gil anticipates that this poster initiative will be rolled out early this fall and that it will encourage international students to get more involved in organizations they are a part of.
Greek organizations will be teaming up with cultural organizations and interest floors so that each group has a few members attend each other’s events.
“So far our organization will be involved in increased co-sponsorships of events that showcase international student groups,” Alpha Delta Phi president and junior Jeremy Staffa said.
Alpha Delta Phi is one of seven Greek organizations to endorse Gil’s initiative.
To Life as a Student
The last of the subprojects focuses on academics. In the end, it all came back to the Writing Fellows.
“Most concerns were about grammar,” Gil said of her research when training to be a Writing Fellow. “When it comes to grammar, it comes to the essay itself. Finding techniques of what mistakes you are making, and going through to paper and try to search for those things, and see the student realizes. If this is the concern, what ways can we find that will be helpful?”
The changes to the Writing Center’s offerings would stem from the feedback of international students and potentially extend beyond just helping with grammar. While the Writing Fellows cannot directly change the paper due to academic honesty concerns, Gil feels that that will not impede their ability to be a useful resource for international students, especially when it comes to grammar.
In addition to this, Gil is facilitating the creation of an international student club which will serve as an organization for international students who may not have a corresponding cultural organization on campus.
Organizations on Board
As of midday Sunday, twelve organizations had endorsed the International Students Project. The organizations range from fraternities like Sigma Phi Epsilon to the Music Interest Floor to cultural organizations like Spanish and Latino Students’ Expressing Rhythm on Stage.
“As the largest cultural group on campus, we have resources that she might need in completing these plans, and we could also see the direct benefit for our members and all international students,” Chinese Students’ Association President and junior Yiran Shan said. “This plan will also open up more opportunities to international students in terms of their social life and potentially other aspects as well.”
The International Students Project is expected to begin work over the summer, with the first of its subprojects being implemented toward the beginning of fall semester.