International students often greeted with troubles upon CMU arrival
He was picked up at the airport and transported to campus.
But when Roberto Herrera Lopez, a second year student from Mexico, reached the residence halls a year ago, he found himself without bedding, Internet connection or even a place to stay.
“I think there was some miscommunication between Residence Life and International Affairs,” Lopez said. “I had to wait an hour before the front desk even assigned me a key.”
This is not a separated incident, according to employees who have worked with international students throughout campus. International students’ introduction to Central Michigan University is often wrought with difficulty and hardship.
Howell junior Samantha Borashko, who was hired by the Office of International Affairs this past summer to pick up first time international students at the Lansing airport, said she rarely had sufficient information on the international student she was picking up.
“It was often that we had no flight number,” Borashko said. “We were lucky if you had a time when they were arriving. We had their name, their age and where they were from. We only occasionally knew where the student was staying.”
Many first-time international students arrive at CMU to take part in the English Language Institute, which dictates that their English language capabilities are often severely limited, making needed information such as where they are staying hard to attain.
Flights arriving later in the day also present challenges, as international students are unable to check in at later hours.
“Herrig Hall has been very nice about letting students stay overnight,” Borashko said. “But a lot of the time, when flights come in after dark, we have had students stay overnight in hotels.”
The Office of International Affairs told international students to arrive between the dates of Wednesday, Aug. 15 and Tuesday, Aug. 21. If the students arrive before Friday at 5 p.m., the Help Desk is able to supply the students with a Global Identification allowing them Internet access. While the Help Desk is open to calls all of that weekend, because they have less information on international students, those students often have to arrive in person to get their Global ID set up.
While some international students are able to arrive at that time, on many occasions, students only have access to flights that arrive after 5 p.m. on Friday. Students who arrive to campus after that time have no access to the Internet until the following Monday, when the Help Desk is open to visitors again.
Netherland junior and Herrig resident Lisa De Haan said while some students have means to contact their family without the Internet, the majority don’t have cell phones that reach internationally, and are without resources on campus to communicate with their families.
“I had the problem with the Internet as well,” De Haan said. “But I was able to reach my family using my RA’s Internet,”she said. “I have friends in Northwest Apartments, who don’t have any guidance whatsoever. I don’t know what they did.”
Internet is not the only problem international students face when they arrive to campus.
De Haan said the majority of international students arrive without bedding. Although she went to CMU through an international program, which allowed her to order bedding beforehand, a mix-up between the program and the front desk caused her to not receive bedding until the next day.
“I slept without blankets, or a pillow, it was one of the most horrible nights of my life,” De Haan said. “I was awake for 40 hours in a row beforehand because of the long flight here, and by the time I got here I was utterly exhausted. I slept with only a towel.”
Jake Mcpartlin, a Lincoln Park senior and a second-year peer adviser to international students, estimated that 15 to 20 of 31 international students in Herrig slept without any bedding for at least the first night, and at least 15 of those 31 students were unable to attain an Internet connection that weekend.
Although international students in the residence halls faced problems, the ones who stayed in Northwest Apartments faced greater problems without access to the support of the residence hall staff.
Borashko said the students she dropped off at Northwest Apartments often didn’t even have the bare necessities, and unless helped by a volunteer, often wouldn’t gain certain staples until the Office of International Affairs opened.
“After we take people to their apartment, I sometimes felt awful, because they had nothing,” Borashko said. “They didn’t even have toilet paper, they have no car to get toilet paper, and they have no bike to get toilet paper. They don’t have anything.”
Borashko said that she didn’t understand why the international office would be closed the first weekend international students arrive.
“How could they not be opened the first weekend that students are there,” Borashko said. “It makes no sense to me.”
Jeffrey Mcdowell, associate director of User Services and Support at the Help Desk-OIT, said there is a viable solution to international student’s inability to access the Internet in the form of a guest account.
“The guest account is simply a generic ID,” Mcdowell said. “Anyone can have one, the downside of the guest account is it expires very quickly, but it will allow someone to access the Internet for a limited number of days.”
Tracy Nakajima, director of International Affairs, said although peer advisers have not been informed of the guest account, she plans to inform them in the future.
“Why would we not supply our workers with all the information needed to do their job effectively?” Nakajima said. “We will definitely let our student staff know that information in the future.”
Nakajima also said she believed the residence halls were doing an exemplary job with the timeframe they had to complete their job.
“Most students register for their rooms two to three months in advance,” Nakajima said. “They only get that information for international students two to three days in advance.”
Still, Nakajima said solutions when it comes to bedding could be reached.
“I think that resident halls could definitely hold a drive for incoming international students at the end of the year,” she said. “I know that we rent bedding for camps before international students arrive, and renting those for the international students would be a great solution. But we can’t just tell residence halls how to run their halls, that is up to them.”
Herrig residence hall director John Johnstin said he was unaware of any issues and would look into them.
Evelyn Seitz, secretary for the Office of International Affairs, said often the office doesn’t have information from the student due to a lack of communication on the students’ end.
“It’s hard for some students to contact us through email or by phone,” Seitz said. “And we don’t know some things unless they tell us.”
Nakajima said Provost Gary Shapiro recognized the special needs of students and has granted a new position to take effect next year, with the addition of a dedicated student advisor, who will work solely with international students. She also said that while the university can do a better job at introducing international students to campus, she said the university was still doing an acceptable job.
The first time Nakajima studied abroad in Hong Kong proved to be more of a chaotic experience than for those at CMU.
“That year there was a typhoon, and the university locked me and three other girls in a room,” she said. “One of them was a fellow exchange student, the other two were Japanese, and we sat there for hours waiting out the Typhoon. Come to find out that the boys weren’t locked in, they were free to go outside and play in the typhoon. I certainly don’t think we treat our students like that, we don’t leave them stranded.”
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