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College improving support for international students

Dr. Matthew Mariola led discussions on the major on Dec. 1 and 5 in Lowry Student Center (Photo by Saeed Husain).

Robyn Newcomb
Features Editor

This academic year, The College of Wooster has accepted more international students than ever before, and as the spring semester comes to a close, several policies will be changed to better accommodate the campus’s international population. Reflecting on these changes, the Voice met with members of the international student community and International Student Services (ISS) to discuss the progress being made and the work that remains to be done before Wooster can become a fully welcoming home to students from any point on the globe.

The most significant change that will be taking place in the coming year is the difference in international student insurance, which will now be able to fully provide for students who had previously lacked coverage: global nomad and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.

“We are very excited about the new international student insurance plan through Lewermark,” said Jill Munro, director of ISS. “There are a myriad of new benefits, including more comprehensive coverage and a 24/7 International Student Support Program through Morneau Shepell. But, most importantly, we will now be able to provide coverage to two populations who have struggled to find decent plans or any plans in the past, our global nomads and our DACA students.”

“I think it’s a really important change,” said Nashmia Khan ’20. “If you’re going to accept these students, you have to take things like being able to take care of them into account.”

Another initiative has been to address the topic of summer storage, a task that has historically caused difficulties for nearly all international students.

“We worked hard this year to find a summer storage plan for international, as well as domestic, students that provided a convenient, comprehensive and affordable option. The College subsidized the program to make it as affordable as possible while still offering excellent service,” Munro added.

ISS has also been working to alleviate the stress of expecting first-year international students to complete summer reading before arriving on campus.

“One of the issues that came to light this year was the frustration incoming first-year international students have with not being able to receive and read the summer reading book until they arrive on campus,” Munro elaborated. “This caused the additional stress of having to read the book and write the essay during an already overwhelmingly stressful time.” This year, the College will be working with the publisher to provide online copies of the book to all international students, allowing them to read it on their own time so they will be on a more level playing field with their domestic peers when they arrive on campus.

“I really appreciate all the steps that ISS is taking to make the College more accommodating to international students. Still, I do think there are areas for growth,” said Tanaka Chingonzo ’21, noting that even small details, such as a more flexible meal plan that would allow students to transfer their excess meal swipes to international students – who run out earlier if they need to stay on campus over breaks – would make a big difference in allowing international students to not have to put more effort into their daily lives than their domestic peers.

Several students noted that the nature of international student orientation could be an area for improvement, as well. While it aims to equip new international students with the knowledge and resources they need as quickly as possible upon arriving on campus, it may not be sustained enough to be fostering their well-being and social connection after that initial few weeks.

“It’s six days of back-to-back events where information is being thrown at you. That’s difficult to change, but it doesn’t really ease of guide you into this new environment. You don’t really have any time to process it, and then on the seventh day classes start.”

Chingonzo agreed, suggesting that the differing arrival times for domestic and international students may play a role in the social disconnect between the two student populations as well.

“By the time that the domestic students arrive, people don’t really put in the effort, because you’ve already settled into friend groups – I think something should be done about that. If domestic and international students started school at the same time, it would make it much more intuitive. People wouldn’t have to put in so much effort to leave their comfort zones.

“For one, I feel that the disconnect between international and domestic

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