Place about 120 strangers from all corners of the globe in a room and you would expect major awkwardness to ensue. How could it not? These kids are miles away from home, speak English with an accent and their name tag isn’t doing them any favors. What could have been a Tower of Babel actually unfolds into something quite different as the students break the ice and make their first ties at international orientation: their reception to TCU.
About 500 students from more than 80 different countries attend TCU, bringing with them the world and all the belongings they could cram into two pieces of luggage. Serious about its commitment to form leaders in “a global community,” TCU is fierce in its recruitment of international students. Karen Scott, director of international admissions, visits countries throughout the year to promote TCU.
In an effort to force international students out of their comfort zone, TCU pairs them with U.S. roommates to develop a rapport between cultures. This relationship is beneficial for both parties as international students get a crash course on local colloquialisms and U.S. students learn that there are more Spanish-speaking countries south of Mexico.
Those people looking out for international students are found in the Office of International Student Services. The staff there not only takes care of the students’ paperwork, but also make sure students abide to the rules concerning their visa status.
Also helping international students in their transition to college is the International Student Association. ISA conducts weekly meetings to discuss issues involving its members and puts together International Week, a yearly celebration of the cultural diversity at TCU.
Akhil Thomas, a junior electrical engineering major from India, said his fellow international peers form an interesting social network.
“International people help you broaden your horizon,” Thomas said.
Being an international student might be good bait for conversation, but it’s not an advantage when looking for on-campus employment. Most jobs at TCU require students to be work-study. International students are not eligible because they do not qualify for federal aid, and off-campus jobs are off-limits.
Kaushal Amatya, a junior psychology major from Nepal and president of ISA, suggested that TCU allot more of the university budget to hiring students that are not work-study.
Holidays can be tough for international students. The staff of Residential Services intend for some residence halls to remain open during winter break this year, eliciting a sigh of relief from students who can’t fly home for the holidays. Housing is not the only issue. Some international students find themselves in a deserted campus around Thanksgiving or spring break.
Amatya said that what international students need is “a home away from home.” He proposed the creation of an international house, a place that could double as a headquarters for international student organizations and a common area for international students. Such a place would provide students comfort, especially during the holidays when the campus looks like a barren wasteland because everyone else has fled to South Padre.
Julieta Chiquillo is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from San Salvador, El Salvador. Her column appears Tuesdays.