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Penn Global and International Student & Scholar Services held the first-ever Penn Global Mosaic Pre-Orientation Program in August, bringing together 39 first years from 18 countries. Credit: Kylie Cooper

A new globally oriented pre-orientation program brought first years from 18 countries to the Delaware Valley.

From Aug. 19 to Aug. 21, Penn Global and International Student & Scholar Services held the first-ever Penn Global Mosaic Pre-Orientation Program. The program brought together an inaugural cohort of 39 incoming first years from 18 countries for three days of activities centered around creating intercultural awareness, exchange, and understanding through a combination of workshops, conversations, and visual presentations.

Rodolfo Altamirano, the executive director of ISSS, said the program is intended for all incoming undergraduates interested in building "global leadership skills, developing intercultural competencies, and of course, meeting people from all over the world."

Altamirano, who developed the curriculum for the Penn Global Mosaic Program, said the program is intentionally designed to accommodate various learning styles and ensure that all five senses are immersed in the learning experience the program provides.

“We used our hands, our eyes, our ears …. We even had [a session called] 'Snack & Tell' where students brought in food from their home countries, engaging everyone’s sense of taste,” Altamirano said.

Participants in the program said that they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about other cultures and daily life in other countries. College first year Sangeeta Quddus said she enjoyed a policy negotiation exercise.

“It really showcased the various leadership styles and etiquettes of leading throughout cultures," Quddus said. "It broadened my understanding of effective leadership and really highlighted the importance of cultural awareness in a global context as you interact with different people from different places."

Quddus, who hails from Princeton, New Jersey, added that the Penn Global Mosaic program helped her set the stage for a diverse and enriching experience for the years to come at Penn.

“The idea of coming to college was very intimidating, but the Mosaic program was a transformative experience," Quddus said. "It let me delve into the intricacies of cultural identities and I witnessed firsthand how multifaceted these identities can be."

College first year Chahd Bekari, an international student from Morocco, said that her biggest highlight of the program was how it emphasized storytelling and consistent reflection as a group.

Students were selected to participate in the program from a pool of applications and were evaluated based on their commitment and enthusiasm to learn and engage in a larger global environment. 

“It was really important to me that we could create a safe environment where people from all corners of the world can really interact organically at their own pace,” Yuhong He, the associate director of integration and community engagement at ISSS, said.

She added that the program was held off campus to take students from Penn's fast-paced environment to a space where they could form meaningful connections.

College first year Esther Appiah, who is from Ghana, said that the program was a fulfilling educational experience that helped her prepare for her time at Penn by providing her the first opportunity to learn about various cultures and appreciate their beliefs and ways of life.

"[The program] just opens your eyes to different things and cultures around the world,” Appiah said.