USC’s Graduate Student Government held its first-ever International Student Appreciation Week on campus this week, a program that was designed to emphasize the presence of the USC international community — which represents nearly 25 percent of USC’s total student body.
In efforts to help integrate the international students into the community, each day this week featured two events, including resource fairs, food fairs, film screenings and a luncheon with President C. L. Max Nikias.
The need for an allotted time dedicated to international students became clear when executive board members for GSG noticed that approximately 30 percent of USC’s graduate students are international students.
“It was important to us that we take seriously the unique challenges facing such a large percentage of our student population,” Tori Montrose, vice president of programming for GSG, explained in an email to the Daily Trojan.
Together, Montrose and Judy Kang, vice president of advocacy at GSG, successfully pitched and organized a week of events designed to increase education, inclusion and fun for international students on campus.
“With shifting federal policies such as the travel ban that seemed to change week to week, 2017 was a challenging year for international students in the U.S.,” Montrose said. “During this time, both Judy and I were serving as executive board members for GSG (in different positions than we both currently hold) and we were working together on brainstorming ways to increase support for our own international students here at USC.”
Montrose and Kang both strongly emphasized working to diminish the “silo effect” of international students feeling isolated from the domestic student population. They hope that going forward, USC can help foster a demonstrated interest in domestic students to support their international peers.
One of the major events during the week was a panel discussion on “International Students and Diplomacy” with Abdul Jabbar Memon, the Consul General of Pakistan in Los Angeles, and public diplomacy professor Nicholas Cull on Thursday.
Vicky Sung, a graduate student studying communication management, attended the panel discussion.
“It was actually pretty interesting because Dr. Cull … talked about listening and how we can advocate for international friendship with just the simple act of listening,” Sung said. “It was really interesting and made me think about my role as an international student on this campus.”
The week also featured food and resource fairs at both the UPC and HSC campuses. Students could meet with any of 20 campus resource centers and student organizations at the resource fair, which also featured mascots from the 2018 Winter Olympics, a photo booth and Professor Beau, USC’s wellness dog.
“We had such a big turn out [of] about 100 [people] and students enjoyed food and talking to campus partners,” Kang said.
The week’s events also featured two international film screenings, a “Coffee Hour” with USC’s International Services and a trivia night about the Winter Olympics.
Montrose said the week was made possible through support from campus partners for the events they put on.
“This is the first year we’re doing it, so there is still much to be improved,” Montrose said. “We had a lot of support from campus partners like the Office of International Services, the International Student Assembly, the Association of International Graduate Students and off-campus partners such as the Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles.”
Montrose hopes to expand the International Student Appreciation Week in the future to further address the needs of students.
“I hope going forward that this event gains even more on and off campus collaborators so we can maximize our reach… [also], the organizers plan to continue intentionally thinking about the shifting needs of international students so the event can evolve over time to maintain relevance,” Montrose said.
Eileen Toh contributed to this report.