Workshop helps international students adjust to new culture
New international students at Central Michigan University attended the “Surviving the Change” workshop on Thursday, Feb. 9 to seek support and advice about adapting to a new culture in Mount Pleasant.
About 10 international students gathered from 4 to 6 p.m. in Bovee University Center Room 302 to listen as three speakers give different perspectives and tips on adjusting socially, academically and in accordance with CMU policies. The workshop, created by the International Student Organization, is new this semester and intendes to provide an intimate and supportive atmosphere for students.
Lebanon senior Mariam Saad, president of ISO, said the focus of the workshop was to help accommodate international students struggling with the change to a new culture.
“(Surviving the Change offers) international students the support to adapt to things like culture shock and homesickness,” she said. “It gives them the skills and ideas to help them better integrate and make connections with the rest of the CMU community, including locals and non-international students.”
Workshop speakers representing counseling, academic achievement and international affairs offices gave presentations offering a specific areas of support and resources available to cope with the change of cultures.
Chun-Fang Frank Kua, assistant director of CMU’s Counseling Center, spoke first and offered support to international students struggling with adapting emotionally. He stressed the importance of connecting with others to avoid feeling alone and especially connecting with people of other cultures in the campus community.
“Find a culture-ally," Kua said. “We are like ambassadors of our own countries. You have the power to change, to educate others.”
Kua passed out information handouts to students regarding counseling and health services on campus.
Jane Johnson, associate director of Academic Advising and Assistance, spoke next to encourage students to take advantage of academic help services CMU offers, such as supplemental instruction and tutoring services.
Johnson also provided international students with handouts of information regarding these services.
The last speaker, Tracy Nakajima, works with CMU’s International Affairs Office, and has been working with ISO since the group was established on campus.
While also discussed guidelines on academic success, such as explaining internship and scholarship requirements, Nakajima also lectured on CMU policies and legal-based advice — explaining governmental rules and university disciplinary procedures students may be unaware of.
Nakajima said she hopes the workshop helped the international students with questions about navigating through the complexities of their studies.
“Students who come to orientation, learn a lot at the beginning," she said. “But ongoing events like this reinforce the information that helps them continually adjust, learn and understand how to overcome the culture shock they are experiencing.”
Saudi Arabia graduate student Zainab Alshaghab said the workshop helped address concerns she has had.
“I wanted to understand more about how CMU works, the rules in place, and more about the immigration policies,” Alshaghab said.
She said she found the tips on connecting to others in the Mount Pleasant community helpful, and would like to attend other events ISO offers throughout the semester.
Saad said she hopes the workshop helped builds self-esteem for international students while giving them guidance, especially in light of the current political climate.
“Some of them (international students) were scared after the (administrative policies) that happened,” Saad said. “We had less international students coming this semester. Some of them are afraid of going home. We hope this workshop will offer comfort, and show that it’s okay to be international student.”