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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Proposal drafted to better integrate international students

A new proposal was drafted by the Preparatory Education Committee (PEC) which outlines how to better integrate foreign and international students while attending UC Davis.

Recent statistics from the UC Davis Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) on international students show that there are 967 at the undergraduate level, 223 in master programs, 804 in doctorate programs and 131 in exchange programs, which totals 2,125 new international students.

According to Moira Delgado, outreach coordinator for SISS, the recent lack of funding for English classes for international students has been one of the major detriments to this sector of the student body. Many are placed in English classes that have bilingual and/or native speakers. Some international students who are not native-English speakers require an intensive English program prior to starting at UC Davis.

“We are very concerned about the number of international students that are dismissed every quarter and we are currently compiling statistics as well as working with other campus units to determine the primary factors leading to dismissal. It is quite challenging for me, not to mention an international student, to understand the very de-centralized way the university operates, from admissions, financial aid, deans’ offices, student housing to SISS,” Delgado said.

This fall, the Student Academic Success Center (SASC) launched “American Cultural Values and the University Experience,” a course specifically designed for new international students. SISS is developing a mentorship program that will begin next quarter, and mentors, both U.S. and international students, will provide social connections and referrals to academic resources, according to Delgado.

Some students agree it is a challenge to adapt to a new environment but, on the whole, they are happy with the academics.

“So far it’s been slightly uphill. Finding other people on the same page, even in the same book, is tricky; it’s easy to forget that the people you know from your home university are people you’ve known for years, that it needs a while,” said Alex Clark, a third-year sociology and anthropology double major on the exchange program from England. “Luckily the academics in UC Davis have been great for me, just because they’ve allowed me to focus more in on my research work, which is why I came in the first place.”

International students often come to the SISS office when they encounter difficulties and are experiencing a heavier workload with the increasing population. The campus has responded with funds for two new positions in the office and it’s predicted that more student advisor positions will be created in the next few years.

According to Julia Menard-Warwick, an associate professor in the linguistics department and chair of the PEC, the International Advisory Committee asked PEC to write a response to a report that they drafted, outlining ways to better integrate international students.

“In our response, we strongly endorse their call for more support services for international students and give some specifics of the kind of services we consider optimal. All of this is just a recommendation, and it will be up to the administration to decide when or if to implement these ideas. Recommendations include enhanced English instruction for those who need it, specialized advising and counseling services and an intensive summer program,” Menard-Warwick said.

According to Delgado, the issues the report outlines concern the entire campus, as UC Davis is recruiting and admitting more international students with increasing budget cuts. Many believe that there should be a support system to assist international students in their adjustment to life in the United States and academics.

The Staff Development Professional Services (SDPS) is offering courses that address international student and scholar needs.

“I wish there had been more integration and immersion,” said Amy Fitzpatrick, a third-year food science major on the exchange program from Ireland. “I mean it’s great to meet the international students and have friends who understand the difficulties of being a foreigner in an American university, but at the same time I wish I had the opportunity to meet more Americans.”

The staff at SDPS is currently teaching two to three courses per quarter and will be teaching an introductory two-hour course on international students, as well as an advising course that focuses on intercultural communication, according to Delgado.

NATASHA QABAZARD can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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