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This year, Penn's freshman cohort of international students had one more way to ease their transition to life at Penn.

The International Mentoring Program, which was organized by the International Student Council at the end of last semester, paired new international students with current Penn upperclassmen from their home countries this fall.

The program gave every incoming international student the opportunity to be paired with a mentor. In its first year, 305 freshmen were paired with about 130 mentors, organizers said.

Mentors were recruited and trained last May in a two-day training period that included sessions with Counseling and Psychological Services and the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Program in order to give mentors the full range of knowledge and skills they need to help the incoming freshmen, said organizers.

"Penn already has a pretty comprehensive mentoring system, but most, if not all, of the time, they're other Americans," said College sophomore Tiffany Cheung of Hong Kong, a member of the committee that organized IMP.

The hope, organizers added, is that mentors and mentees will build lasting friendships beyond the basic advising relationship that has been instituted.

"I thought back to when I came to Penn and how important it was for me to be able to relate to someone on a cultural level," said College sophomore and mentor Adriana Lopez, a native of El Salvador. "I know the minute you get an e-mail in Spanish, it makes you feel so much more at ease, so I'm glad I could do that for someone."

College sophomore and ISC Secretary Trixie Canivel of the Philippines noted that questions about smaller details like what to bring to campus and how to pick flights might be best answered by students who have gone through the transition before.

"The frame of reference is different - we wanted the students to have someone who went through the same experiences and motions of integration so they can help guide the incoming freshmen," she said.

Canivel, who is mentoring a freshman from the Philippines, said she hopes new students realize they have upperclassmen to turn to if they ever feel alone.

Though IMP is entirely student run, support for the program is present across campus.

"The ISC's initiative will definitely facilitate the ability of new international students to adapt, said Director of the Office of International Programs Rodolfo Altamirano. "If done successfully, it will smoothly integrate our internationals into the Penn landscape and bridge personal relationships and mentoring experience."

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