The ins and outs of being an international student at IUPUI


International student Pearl-Marie Andoh distinctly remembers the first time she set foot on campus: she was confused, overwhelmed and had even gotten lost while trying to locate the lecture hall of her first class. Due to the pandemic, like many students, Andoh began her journey at IUPUI completely online.

“It was quite overwhelming,” Andoh said. “I didn’t have an orientation, and I didn’t know anyone.”

Andoh is a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, and is one out of the nearly 2,000 international students that IUPUI currently hosts. 

Throughout the entire process there are a number of resources available to minimize difficulties for international students.

The Office of International Affairs remains one of the prime guidance centers for international students. Along with assisting prospective international students with admissions and housing selection, the office also oversees programs for international partnerships and other cultural campus engagements.

“They do a lot to support international students,” Andoh said. “Things like showing them how to go grocery shopping and giving them campus tours.”

The International Peer Mentoring Program (IPMP) is also a familiar name for international students. Housed and supported by the Office of International Affairs, IPMP’s mission is to help international students adjust to university life and American culture.

Though the team is made up of both domestic and international students, all mentors work to help with pre-arrival assistance, individual mentoring and social functions for interaction and cultural programming.

“Through [IPMP] I was able to learn about some really good resources, like CAPS, the Office of Wellness and even AES,” Andoh said.

Outside of university resources, Andoh also thinks it could be beneficial for the campus community to take the initiative to interact with international students.

“I know some international students feel intimidated to approach other people and even their professors,” Andoh said. “I think it could help a lot if students and professors recognize and understand the struggle of international students and how they can make them [feel] safer or more at home.”

Monthly social events offered by IPMP are a great way for domestic and international students to interact, Andoh mentioned.

The International Peer Mentoring Program is just one of the many resources aiding international students. Global Jags Connect is a program that focuses on building connections for international students through the local Indianapolis community—usually composed of alumni, faculty, staff and other community members.

With Global Jags Connect comes the opportunity for international students to establish a support system, further develop their English skills and become more familiar with “Hoosier hospitality.”

The program arranges for students to meet their designated teams at least once or twice a month, and once the 4-5 month span is over, students are still able to maintain their connections.

Another resource that’s available is the ESL (English as Second Language) Center, which provides help with reading comprehension, preparing for speeches, oral execution, grammar and many other linguistic aspects.

Like their domestic peers, international students are bound to experience financial fluctuations. According to a study analyzed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, undergraduate students who suffer from financial stress are at a higher risk of halting their education in comparison to their counterparts who are more financially secure. Certain factors that contribute to such scenarios can stem from needing to work extensive hours to cover living expenses, which minimizes the total number of hours a student can study.

 The International Student Financial Assistance Program is a resource offered to help such students find balance. The program aims to address situations where a student’s funding has been “severely and negatively impacted by a situation that was unpredictable.” Specific criteria and deadlines must be met, and the award varies according to the financial need of any given student.

International Students who are not eligible for the assistance program can opt to look for on-campus employmentif they are on a J-1 status. Students on a J-1 status include those who are on an exchange program and will attend IUPUI for either a semester or entire academic year. Once approved, the student will be able to work for 12 months with certain conditions. Students needing to work for longer periods of time for an internship or degree requirement must receive authorization through Academic Training.

Most importantly, extensive effort is placed to ensure that international students are able to receive help during incidents that may leave them feeling scared or uncomfortable. Haley Russ, Assistant Director of Student Success Programs at the Office of International Affairs, recognizes the possibility of culture differences, along with the confusion they could cause during the process and the importance of creating a place of support for such situations.

“Oftentimes we connect with the Office of Student Advocacy and Support because we’re not the experts, and we want to make sure we’re getting students the resources they need,” Russ said. “So if that is the Office of Equal Opportunity or Office of Student Advocacy and Support, then we’ll connect them with that.”

From a departmental view, Russ believes that connecting with the Office of International Affairs and other offices around campus can help to create a holistic support system of students for the international student community.

“Encouragement through student organizations is really helpful to bringing the community together, because it’s hard to find a community if you don’t feel connected,” Russ said.

Heaven Xiong is a senior majoring in human resources, management, international studies, and journalism, with a minor in economics. She is a writer for The Campus Citizen. 

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