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Virtual International Student Orientation provides valuable support for new international students 

Published: May 14, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Amidst a year filled with uncertainties and need for innovation, Ohio University found new ways to offer robust and connecting orientation events for incoming international students. 

During spring semester 2021, 83 international students, including current students with a new degree program, started their academic journey at OHIO. These students represent 21 countries and 33 programs across the University. Following impacts of COVID-19, many international students had deferred their fall 2020 enrollment to spring 2021. 

International Student and Faculty Services (ISFS) held a robust and engaging virtual International Student Orientation (ISO) from Jan. 11-13, 2021. The orientation featured events welcoming and acclimating incoming international students prior to the beginning of classes. 

ISO offers, as standard programming prior to the start of each semester, sessions covering academic success, Title IX, health insurance, tips and tricks for getting acquainted in Athens, an Alden Library tour, and several social activities. Virtual activities such as trivia night, a dance party, and a cooking demonstration allowed students to engage and get to know one another safely. 

“ISO is always an exciting period for ISFS staff and peer advisors; this year, with the need to engage virtually, we decided to try and create some virtual connections for students with fun social events. One of the benefits of virtual social events was that we could invite current students and staff across the University. All events were well attended, and many students reached out to say how much they enjoyed themselves,” Diane Cahill, director of ISFS, said.

“ISO was so different this year. ISFS peer advisors normally do not have a connection with the students until the actual days of orientation, but through the virtual platform, we received the names of a lot of the students that were attending in advance. Also, I was initially afraid no one would attend the virtual social events we had planned but was excited many people joined,” Shauna Torrington, ISFS graduate assistant and Ph.D. candidate in Teacher Education-Curriculum and Instruction, said. “During the cooking show, students interacted and discussed aspects of their culture as the hosts shared the recipe. The dance party lasted well beyond the scheduled time as students enjoyed songs from around the globe. I look forward to seeing how these positive changes allow us to grow and adapt to engage incoming international students at ISO.”

Incoming student participants responded positively to virtual events. 

“Being an international student and coming abroad in this volatile (COVID-19) situation was challenging. But through the orientation week, I started to feel connected to the OHIO community, who are from all over the world,” Debalina Chakraborty, Ph.D. candidate in Physics, said. “The detailed explanation on all the academic, administrative, socio-economic issues helped me to get accustomed with OHIO, as well as the USA at large. I looked forward to the events happening each day and eagerly listened to information offered through presenters’ enthusiastic and assuring voices. The warmth and genuineness I felt, even on this virtual platform, is quite overwhelming. Thank you all for your time and organizing such a wonderful event in this hard situation and managing it so well.”

The insight gained through offering dynamic engagement virtually, before students arrived and through ISO, positively informed the planning for the Summer ISO on May 6, 2021.

Information about ISO can be found here: www.ohio.edu/isfs/resources-new-students/arrival-and-orientation-information. Other helpful resources can be found here: www.ohio.edu/isfs/resources-international-students-and-faculty

In addition, ISFS offers opportunities to faculty who wish to better understand and implement international student integration and support through outreach and training at www.ohio.edu/isfs/isfs-outreach-and-training

Ohio University appreciates the vibrancy the international community brings to the Bobcat experience and remains committed to ensuring success of all students.