Paperwork, tours and icebreakers: International students acclimate at orientation
With the New York City skyline behind them, new international students studying at FDU's Metropolitan Campus and College at Florham take a group photograph together in New Jersey’s Hamilton Park. The stop was one of many on the University-sponsored day trip to Manhattan and the surrounding area that caps orientation. (Photo courtesy of Chandini Meka)
By Kenna Caprio
For international students, orientation is more than just the first taste of life and school at Fairleigh Dickinson University. It’s a chance to acclimate to the United States.
At FDU’s Metropolitan Campus, international orientation runs for three days prior to the first week of classes, covering the practical, educational, social and cultural aspects of college life.
“We try to fulfill the social element while we get them adjusted a bit,” says Jim Deleppo, University director of International Student Services. “We guide them through the (academic) testing process, meetings with academic advisors, webmail set up, getting IDs and schedules. We provide the new students with the necessary tools to begin their academic careers at FDU.”
Approximately 235 new international students, both undergraduates and graduates, attended this year’s orientation. Members of the Class of 2017 represent 42 total countries, including the United States.
“I’m lucky to be here and want to be here,” says Eddy Semaan, 18, originally of Douk in northern Lebanon. He’s here to study mass communication and media, and though he’s only been in the United States for little more than a week, Semaan wants to “engage in community service” as he “really gets to know the courses.”
Meanwhile, Anni Lu, 23, a graduate student from China who’s studying accounting, says, “America is like a dream. And after coming here, I think that the University is amazing. I’m looking forward to being really independent and learning a lot here.”
German students Martin Lukaschik — 22 and a sports administration graduate student — and Tchamy Dantse Dantse — 21 and a mechanical engineering undergraduate — have big plans for the soccer team and are hoping to get FDU spectators to games. So far, both are enjoying their experiences, including orientation, in the United States.
“Since both graduate and undergraduate students are going through similar experiences the orientation helps them adjust, as a group, to life at FDU and in the United States,” says Deleppo.
Representatives from the Office of International Student Services and student orientation leaders assist the students with everything, including admissions regulations, scholarship forms, paying tuition bills, University do’s and don’ts and American bank accounts and cell phones. “International students have to be very careful that they don’t violate their status in the United States because there are many rules and regulations,” says Chandini Meka, a 21-year-old senior, communications major and international student orientation leader from Sydney, Australia. “After all the rules, orientation is about American culture and becoming immersed in it.”
International students on the Metropolitan Campus chat and eat lunch in the SUB cafeteria during orientation week. (Photo by Dan Landau)Deleppo points to the welcome reception, where new students can mingle with current students, alumni, faculty and staff, as a big success. “It’s a good presentation of how friendly the University is,” he says. He also has high expectations for the latest addition to the orientation line-up: a mentor program. Eight mentors will take on two to three students to advise during the fall semester. “These students can really become more involved and connected to the University,” Deleppo says.
That connection to FDU will help lessen culture shock, which can often be unnerving.
“There is a huge culture shock for many students, and they miss their loved ones dearly during the early stages of coming here,” says Meka. “But many of them are excited to meet new people and learn new things that will help them with their future careers. We just need to make sure that they feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings.”
Dan Landau contributed to the reporting of this story.