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Destler Dodge

Moving away from home is always a daunting proposition. Uprooting your life and moving abroad, leaving behind friends, family and the comfort of familiarity takes the experience to another level entirely. That is the prospect international students everywhere around the world face.

It is an experience fraught with difficulties, one that changes a person and leaves them stronger for it. Being an international student myself, I can attest to that fact. Typically, current international students help smooth the transition for new arrivals. At RIT, international students have the additional security of a strong support system that expertly coordinates and controls the initial transition for them by providing simple guidelines on all the essentials.

For any international student at RIT, the International Students Services (ISS) office in the Student Alumni Union (SAU) is the first place to visit after  arriving on campus. The ISS office is responsible for processing post-arrival visa documentation in order to ensure compliance with immigration law. This should be followed by a visit to the Eastman Building to obtain your RIT identification card, which is essential for almost everything you do on campus. A visit to the Student Health Center is next on the agenda, in order to verify immunization and insurance records.

Once you are done with the steps mentioned above, there are a variety of resources on campus to help international students with specific needs. In fall 2014, RIT held its first ever resource fair, showcasing the large variety of clubs and  organizations that function at RIT. In addition to club representatives, the various offices concerned with student affairs were also present at the event, helping students identify what offices to seek help from to resolve their diverse issues.

With approximately 80% of international students at RIT being in a graduate study program, the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) is heavily involved in the orientation process for most international students, coordinating efforts with the ISS as well as the graduate programs at RIT to help incoming students understand and explore the opportunities that their respective programs provide.

Lilli Jensen, assistant director of the ISS office, complimented the OGS's involvement with the ISS to ensure the best possible experience for new students arriving at RIT." This collaboration usually works to the benefit of everyone involved.

“The more we collaborate, the better we are able to serve students,” Jensen said.

Of course, settling in is not all academic or bureaucratic. There is a lot of emotional and cultural adjustment involved, and peers are more suited to providing assistance in that regard. Having a helping hand during the initial wave of homesickness is essential, even if students might have lived away from home before. A different country brings a different culture, and it stands to reason that not everything goes the way a student expects.

This is not lost on the ISS. Recognizing the issue of adjustment, Jensen described the necessity of having members of the international student body help out with new students.

This is done by assigning  Peer Adviser Leaders (PALs) to incoming students with diverse backgrounds. They serve as their adviser and mentor, particularly through orientation week, covering everything from orientation tours to student meet-and-greets.

It is often observed that students who get involved with cross-cultural activities early tend to experience less culture shock in some ways, which I can attest to. The time-frame of adjustment varies from student to student. The sooner a student adjusts, the more prepared that student will be for the challenges of the college experience. Reach out to the various offices mentioned above to help you adjust to RIT as quickly as possible.