Most freshmen students have plenty to worry about, from losing their PennCard for the umpteenth time to trying to actually find that frat party they got invited to. On top of that, international students are only allotted one day to make the additional adjustment from their countries to Penn before the other 2,000 freshmen arrive.
The Undergraduate Assembly passed a resolution on Sunday requesting the University extend International Student Orientation from one to two days, although they estimate the extension would cost about $10,000.
The UA said in the resolution that they plan on helping to fund the extra day, though they did not specify how much money they intended to contribute.
“A lot of international students feel that there is not necessarily enough support from the school — or at least that there should be more support for international students because they are a community at risk transitioning from another country to Penn,” said Assembly of International Students President and Wharton and Engineering junior Alexandre Kleis.
Peer institutions such as Stanford, Cornell, Yale, Brown and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all have four day international student orientations, and Georgetown, the University of Chicago and Princeton have three days.
The brevity of ISO means that students miss out on information about important resources. In 2013, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Weingarten Learning Resources Center only had five minutes each to present their resources to international students, and in 2014 were not allotted any time during ISO, according to the UA resolution.
However, since ISO has yet to be extended, other departments on campus are working to develop alternative resources that will benefit international students in their long-term integrations to life at Penn.
For one, International Student and Scholar Services Director Rudie Altamirano is working diligently to expand his department’s role in international student integration.
“I don’t want to be seen just as the immigration office,” he said, referencing the fact that most international students come to his office to deal with paperwork. “We have to serve our students holistically.”
Recently, his department has developed an innovative online portal aimed at integrating all of the University resources for international students. They have also led the creation of workshops for international students at Weingarten and a discussion series at CAPS, both of which are aimed at improving integration for international students, especially during their first semesters.
Similarly, the International Student Advisory Board recently debuted the first of a series of videos on its YouTube channel about the transition to American college life, which students will be able to reference before move-in.
ISAB is also working with the Penn Alumni Interview program to have interviewers connect with students after their acceptances to Penn and serve as guides through the transition process.
In addition to individual guides and university-led initiatives, smaller student groups can also be valuable assets for students during their transition.
For example, the Intercultural Leadership Program brings together incoming domestic and international students during their first semester at Penn and culminates in a three-day retreat, serving as an additional way for international students to ease the transition into college life.
Additionally, Penn World Scholars, a scholarship program for international students from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds, provides a small and supportive community for their incoming students.
“Having this small community of students that were living the same experience as I was was really helpful and provided a safety net,” said World Scholar and College and Wharton junior Valerio Imperatore .
“It gave me the confidence to spring out to other groups because I knew that no matter what I had them in the background,” he said.
Even if the UA resolution is not adopted by the University, it is essential that international students be provided with adequate resources to feel comfortable at the University, Kleis said.
“If you aren’t comfortable, you can’t integrate,” he said.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct titles of the Assembly of International Students and Penn World Scholars. The DP regrets the errors.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.