Ten undergraduate students were selected to become board members for the newly established International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) on Thursday, Sept. 26. ISAB will work directly with the International Resource Team to inform and advise the University’s administrative offices about the main issues, services, and programs concerning both undergraduate and graduate international students. Through this process, ISAB aims to improve the experiences of international students during their time at the University.
The new ISAB members are Meiwen Chen ’21, Shakeel Jessa ’21, Romina Beltran ’22, Ferdinand Quayson ’20, Dennis (Chenye) Sun ’22, Marcel Thompson ’22, Vanshika Virmani ’21, Robyn Wong ’23, Yunxuan (Wendy) Wu ’23, and Adele Zhou ’21.
The new board members will serve for the full academic year and hope to tackle the problems they believe international students at the University continue to struggle with. While creating programs and initiatives to address these issues, Wong, from Singapore, wants to bring a first-year perspective to ISAB and remind the board of the cultural and social differences international students encounter, particularly during their first year at the University.
“I feel like my experience at Wes is very much defined by how I am coming in from a different background,” Wong said. “I’m very cognizant of the fact that I’m not from here, especially because I think that domestic students have a very domestic view…. And because of that, international students clearly have a set of concerns and experience that is distinct and therefore needs to be addressed.”
Sun, from China, hopes to concentrate on the unique struggles international students face on top of the typical challenges college students encounter.
“Since international students have to deal with cultural differences and language barriers and socialize with people simultaneously, it is not uncommon that students might find it difficult to keep a balanced life and be involved in campus life,” Sun wrote in an email to The Argus.
Thompson, who is from Paris, France, also recognized how many international students find themselves struggling to become comfortable with a new culture, language, or academic system. Thompson hopes to work with the rest of the board to address these problems.
“I feel like adapting to a new language, culture, school system far from home is a challenge for all the freshmen international students,” Thompson wrote in an email to The Argus. “I would really like to work in order to find solutions to reduce this struggle.”
Quayson, from Ghana, emphasized the importance of having an advisory board specifically for international students in order to address these common problems international students find themselves dealing with.
“Whether it is academics, social life or adjusting to new cultures, international students always have to work twice as hard,” Quayson wrote in an email to The Argus. “I believe joining ISAB is a great step in working directly with the administration and various international student bodies at Wes to implement programs and initiatives that will enrich the international students experience.”
A common issue new board members have faced during their time as Wesleyan students has been a struggle to find a connected community of international students. Virmani, who is from Indonesia and India and who previously worked as part of the International Student Working Group at the Resource Center, wants to bring together international students and advocate for all of their needs through ISAB.
“At Wesleyan, there is a lack of cohesiveness within the international student community,” Virmani wrote in an email to The Argus.
Quayson echoed this lack of connection, especially among different international student groups, and hopes ISAB will help bring these student organizations together.
“I am hoping that by the end of this semester, ISAB will be able to bring together the various international student groups on campus under one roof to enable us to better understand the various concerns that each group has,” Quayson wrote.
In addition to bringing together the international student community, Wong also wants to make it easier for international students to connect with domestic students, which she has seen students struggling with during her first few weeks at the University. She hopes that ISAB will help all students look beyond their home country and highlight non-U.S. backgrounds.
“I think a lot of people don’t know how to talk about differences, specifically maybe domestic students because they are coming from their home—it’s still their home country, so they’re not as cognizant of the fact that people are different,” Wong said. “Even in class discussions, you can see how American perspectives prevail…. It’s just something I’ve noticed that maybe people from here would not notice.”
Beginning this Friday, ISAB will meet weekly to tackle various projects the board members want to focus on. Wong hopes that international students will see ISAB as a group they can reach out to about their concerns and will not hesitate to speak to board members about any issues they are facing. Coming from a community where asking for help is frowned upon, Wong understands that it can be difficult for some international students to seek out assistance.
“It seems to be the case here that if you need help, you very much have to reach out for help,” Wong said. “That’s something that I’ve been figuring out here, and it’s very difficult, especially if you’re from an Asian culture, to be reaching out for help, ’cause you know if you’re asking for help, it means you’re weak, which is a big no-no in Asian cultures.”
Even so, the new board members will be heading into their first meeting with positive attitudes and a shared desire to make improvements for international students at the University.
“I hope we will be able to have good team spirit and create projects that have a positive impact on the Wesleyan international students community,” Thompson wrote.
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.