‘Traveling outside of your culture’

Chloe Stewart

About 10 percent of OSU’s student population is made up of international students from over 100 different countries who study a broad array of subjects.

The process for international students to come to OSU involves not only the college admissions process but immigration processes as well. In order to study in the U.S., students must first apply for admissions and submit all of their transcripts and test scores in addition to immigration documents, international students require a visa — most international students come to OSU with a student visa. If admitted, students must submit any remaining documents and information to OSU before finalizing their travel plans and arriving at the university.

Among some of the groups that provide support and opportunities for international students is INTO OSU. According to Casey Glick, student engagement coordinator, INTO OSU seeks to make students feel welcome and part of the community at OSU. In order to do this, INTO OSU works to engage with students in many different ways, including putting on events, cultivating an active living learning community in the ILLC and providing pathways and classes to help students learn English and more about OSU.

INTO OSU is the product of a partnership between OSU and INTO, an independent company based in the UK that helps universities establish international programs. According to Glick, the development of this partnership has helped the OSU community become more accessible for international students.

“OSU really wanted to increase the diversity across campus and they wanted to formalize some of the pathways, (such as) the English language programs, at the university,” Glick said.

Since developing the INTO OSU program and otherwise taking action to cultivate the international student community, OSU’s international student population has roughly doubled from about five percent to about 10 percent.

According to Glick, cultivating this international community at OSU can be an important and powerful learning experience for both international students and domestic students.

“There’s nothing like traveling outside of your culture that really puts you in a position to be able to learn,” Glick said. “It takes you outside of your comfort zone.”

    Another group working to provide support for international students on campus is the INTO OSU Student Success Association. IOSSA is student founded and ran organization that, according to president Jianchenyang “Will” Zhang, seeks to help students be successful both academically and socially. In order to accomplish these goals, IOSSA puts on social events—like their upcoming Valentine’s day party—and to develop relationships with international students and college faculty.

Zhang came to OSU from China about four years ago. He had never heard of Oregon or OSU before one of China’s many independent agencies devoted to helping students travel abroad.

Zhang was very nervous about coming to the United States before he arrived because of the language barriers and possibility of racism.

However, according to Zhang, this has not been his experience. According to Zhang, he became very fond of Corvallis and OSU right away. When he first arrived, Zhang was surprised by how friendly everyone in Corvallis seemed to be.

“People here are friendly and the culture is full of diversity,” Zhang said. “You have to experience it and then you can judge it.”

In the future, Zhang hopes to work in the United States.

Rodney, one of the event coordinators for IOSSA, he has had a similar experience since he came to OSU from Indonesia.

“The first time I came here, it felt like a different planet,” Rodney said. “I’ve been exposed to a lot of new things.”

Rodney has come to like life in Corvallis a great deal since recovering from the initial culture shock. However, according to Rodney, the journey to get to Corvallis was not entirely smooth. During the immigration process, US immigration officials would not accept that he had a single name. They gave him the abbreviation FNU—First Name Unknown—in place of a first name. Now, according to Rodney, it is embarrassing and somewhat upsetting when he hears professors call this “name” in class.  

    According to Trinh Trinh, another event coordinator for IOSSA, life in Corvallis has even changed the way that she interacts with her friends and family in her home country of Vietnam. Trinh has come to enjoy the friendly way that people—even strangers—can interact in Corvallis. According to Trinh, it is more common for her to hug her friends and strike up conversation at the grocery store in Corvallis than it is in her home country. Trinh once gave her father a call just to say “hello,” and “I miss you.” However, according to Trinh, such behavior is very uncommon in Vietnam, so her father’s immediate response was to ask her if something was wrong.

“That’s the last time I call my dad just to say ‘hi,’” Trinh said.  

According to Trinh, life at OSU has been both an important learning experience in addition to a fun living experience. Since coming to OSU, she has found that many aspects of culture are, at their roots, very similar.

    “That’s why we hold these events,” Trinh said. “So we can show [international students] that they’re not so different. That’s the beauty of the earth.”

Was this article helpful?