First-year students Jiahong Chen, Jennie Ebihara, and Fatoumata Gaye joined the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) in mid-March after applications closed on Feb. 16. The new members’ terms started this semester, and they will continue to serve on the board through the next academic year.
Ebihara, who studied remotely during the fall but chose to come to campus for the spring semester, wanted to join the board to be able to give back to the University’s international student community.
“As a remote student studying from Japan during the fall semester, I relied heavily on my international student friends who lived within similar time zones for information on classes, housing, getting a visa, if the embassies were open, etc., and most importantly for their friendship and support,” Ebihara wrote in an email to The Argus. “These relationships I fostered with Wes’ international community during the fall also made me realize the magnitude of issues international students face that had yet to be addressed by the administration.”
Gaye, who was born and raised in Dakar, Senegal and has been studying on campus since the fall, expressed a similar desire to voice international students’ concerns to the University’s administration.
“Early on, I realized that as international students, we don’t exactly have the same resources and opportunities as our domestic peers,” Gaye wrote in an email to The Argus. “As such, I was really interested in ISAB’s work because it creates the opportunity for our concerns to be heard by the Wesleyan administration in an organized and structured manner. I found it very important to bridge the gap between students and the administration and to provide resources to support members of Wesleyan’s international community.”
Chen, who considers Shenzhen, China and Toronto, Canada to be home, is currently studying remotely and noted the difficulty of being a remote international student this year.
“Being an international student definitely is not the best experience especially for this year because I am studying remotely,” Chen wrote in an email to The Argus. “However, I am still trying to connect with the Wes community, just not in the traditional sense.”
Ebihara echoed this sentiment while describing the challenging parts of her first semester at the University as a remote student.
“Taking online classes from 1 a.m. [to] 4 a.m. during the fall was definitely a big struggle, and it felt a little disappointing that I was limited to classes that were 1. held online (remote students cannot take in person classes) and 2. taught in a reasonable time,” Ebihara wrote. “On the other hand, I am grateful that Wesleyan was able to accommodate students to come to campus and maintain some elements of residential life, which is a major reason why I decided upon studying at a U.S. institution.”
While Gaye was able to study on-campus in the fall, she still faced a sense of isolation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a first-year student joining in times of a pandemic, it felt quite isolating in the beginning,” Gaye wrote. “I remember seeking and reaching out to student groups I shared interests with in order to become more integrated at Wesleyan.”
The new members have already begun working with the rest of the board to further develop the International Student Buddy Program, which was launched in the fall semester and pairs incoming international first years with current international students. Working on the project has given Gaye a taste of the collaborative nature of ISAB.
“ISAB isn’t too big so even if I just joined, I already feel engaged in the projects we are working on,” Gaye wrote. “We think through our projects collectively so that everyone can contribute their ideas. It feels like we work together on everything.”
All three of the new ISAB members have a variety of goals they would like to take on during their time on the board, ranging from simply listening to other international students talk about their experiences to improving career resources.
Chen hopes to become more involved as a member of the board within the international student community.
“My personal goal will be [to] participate more and listen to more people,” Chen wrote. “As a part of ISAB my goal definitely is to make int[ernational] students feel more included and advocate for their rights.”
Ebihara specifically aims to advocate for international students in an academic setting with professors and to help develop career support services.
“I’d like to work on advocating for professors to be more responsive and involved with helping international students succeed in their classes…raising awareness about international students and our academic struggles,” Ebihara wrote. “I also want to work towards more career support for international students, by increasing career events for international student internships, creating a resource list on internships that are accessible to international students, etc!”
While Gaye wants to focus on helping incoming first-year students transition smoothly to the University, a long-term goal is increasing awareness and interest in ISAB’s work to students.
“In the short term, I want to support incoming students’ transition to Wesleyan smoothly and in the long term, I want to work in reaching more current students to get them engaged/interested in our projects,” Gaye wrote. “Having more of them know about the board and its mission and engage in its activities will only help us in accomplishing our work.”
Gaye reiterated this desire to increase ISAB’s reach and create more engagement between the board and the international student community.
“I hope more international students will be interested in what we do and how we do it,” Gaye wrote in an email to The Argus. “If you have any questions or suggestions about our work, feel free to reach out to any of us board members. We would be more than happy to talk!”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jiyu_shin.