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New programs help international undergrads

From left, Ming-Hui Hsung of San Marcos; Ruo Zhang of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Marzhan Bekbalanova of Almaty, Kazakhstan; listen intently to an orientation presentation Thursday morning on the UC Davis campus, part of three days of activities to introduce and acclimate them. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | September 21, 2012 |

UC Davis is welcoming its largest-ever group of new international undergraduates with programs this week to help their transition to U.S. college life — from culture shock to different expectations in the American classroom.

UCD estimates it will enroll about 600 international students — 70 percent to 80 percent more than last year — and is offering them expanded orientation services, which began Tuesday, as well as a new mentoring program and a special seminar series.

The new programs offer additional support for international students as the university moves to increase their numbers to offer a more global experience for all of its students. Similar services are provided for all new students, but these focus on the unique needs of international students.

“UC Davis welcomes our international students and appreciates the rich diversity they contribute to our classrooms and community life,” said Ralph Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “We want to ensure the success of all our students, and we’ve found that orientation programs are critical to getting our students off on the right foot.”

Undergraduate Admissions estimates that new freshmen will number some 5,200 and new transfer students, 2,900.

The 600 new undergraduates represent a major increase from the 160 international freshmen and 184 international transfer students enrolled last year.

However, the number of California resident freshmen is also increasing, and they will continue to represent more than nine in 10 students in the entering freshman class. UCD estimates it will enroll upwards of 400 more than last fall’s 4,394 resident freshmen.

Estimates also show an additional 50-plus California transfer students over last fall’s 2,547; they, too, will represent almost nine in 10 of all new transfer students.

Orientation

About 240 international and 25 national students (from the United States excluding California) are participating in three days of activities to help familiarize them with the campus, introduce them to student resources and meet classmates. There is a separate program for national and international transfer students.

International and national students were invited to participate in the summer advising program that guides thousands of new undergraduates through the transition to college life at UCD. But what was once a shorter program especially for them has been expanded and takes place at the start of the quarter so they don’t need to make a second trip to campus.

Special sessions will address immigration regulations, employment options and cultural adjustment. On Thursday morning, a panel of current international students described their first-year experiences and offered tips for success.

Mentoring program

To offer additional ongoing support, Services for International Students and Scholars is launching a new program to train UCD students — including continuing international students — to be mentors for international students.

Raymond Lo of Oakland signed up to be a global ambassador. A fourth-year student doubl- majoring in international relations and Chinese, he is returning from study abroad in Taiwan.

“In Taiwan, I experienced first-hand just how difficult it is to adjust to the culture shock and the environment,” Lo said. “I want to help change that for an incoming international student.”

Lo said he thinks it would be great to be paired with a student from Taiwan. “It would be nice to talk about some of the experiences I had over there,” he added. “Either way, it’ll be a learning experience for both the international student and me.”

Lo will be among 25 prospective mentors who will take a fall class on intercultural and mentorship skills, be matched with international students and serve as outreach interns.

Seminar series

For the classroom, a new series of seminars has been designed to help international students understand more about American culture and the university experience. Offered through the Student Academic Success Center on campus, the three courses will explore American cultural values at work in the university and highlight opportunities for students to become involved at the university and in American life.

Open to all students, the fall course will feature more than 15 small sections to accommodate about 325 students.

Sally Teaford Alexander, coordinator of international student resources for the center, said the course will include guest speakers and teaching assistants who have some sort of international experience. “The campus is really coming together to make it happen,” she said.

Skills courses

Another program new this calendar year is helping high school graduates from overseas enhance their English-language and academic skills before they enroll at American universities. Ten students have just completed the nine-month Global Achievement Program, offered through UCD Extension, and a new cohort of 17 arrive next week.

Students take courses in English and work with tutors to prepare for a standard test that many universities use to evaluate a non-native speaker’s ability to use and understand English.

They also study American culture; learn about higher education in the United States; and develop skills for academic writing, making oral presentations and participating in group discussions.

Beth Greenwood, associate dean of the Center for International Education within UC Davis Extension, said the program provides a lot of support — including furnished apartments and cultural excursions — for what is a major transition.

“We know many international students experience culture shock and homesickness,” she said. “We help them build academic, English and life skills they will need in college and encourage them to become a part of the Davis community.”

International Education Week

In November, UCD will host an International Education Week to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

About 4,800 new undergraduates will move into residence halls on Saturday and Sunday. Welcome Week activities, including academic sessions and social events, will begin Monday, and classes will start Thursday, Sept. 27.

Official enrollment numbers for the fall quarter — including graduate and professional students by residency — will be available in late October.

— UC Davis News Service

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