Leaving family and friends to travel halfway around the world to a strange culture and environment can become an isolating experience for the many international students who enter UB each year. To help stem that feeling and provide more of a welcome mat, the International Student Mentoring Program was implemented during the fall semester. The initial responses are a welcome sign.
“The mentoring program gave me lots of valuable things during my first semester,” says mentee Jun Bying Park, a South Korean native who found through his research that UB is the optimal school to pursue the study of law. “When I came to UB a few months ago, many things, such as culture of America, university life, are not familiar to me. However, my mentor and professors helped me to live at UB very comfortably. My mentor helped me to reduce the culture gap between USA and my country through introducing lots of valuable American culture and society.”
Park’s comments were among the many evaluations that gave high marks to the new program, a joint effort of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and Counseling Services.
“We’d been concerned for some time about some international students who become extremely isolated,” explains Ellen Dussourd, ISSS director. “Counseling Services has observed international students in counseling who lack social support, and as a result become depressed. Students who leave behind their families and friends have to come here and form new support systems, and not everyone is outgoing enough to do that. We’re hoping through this program to provide social programs where students would meet other people.”
The program was adapted to UB based on a model that Xuhua Qin, Counseling Services psychologist and mentoring program advisor, helped develop as a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After she came to UB a year and a half ago, she proposed the idea to ISSS. “I see this program as a bridge for international students to develop new social connections, helping them to become more familiar with the academic culture,” says Qin.