The United States, what a place. The land of oversized meals, frantic football fans and the promising American dream.
Some are born into this unique culture and learn the ins and outs of being American from parents also raised in the United States. However, another significant portion of this country belongs to people who have traveled great lengths to explore an entirely different part of the world. Sometimes, this transition is extremely challenging — language barriers, laws and regulations, classroom settings and more elements are vastly different in various regions. USC needs to support that. International students need a resource on campus that they can depend on not only for logistics but also for guidance on how to adjust to a completely new world.
International students make up nearly a quarter of the Trojan family, and 15% of students who entered in Fall 2017 came from countries outside the U.S. USC’s Office of International Services does a great job of helping students get their paperwork established and answering any logistical questions; however, it is tough for these students to get acclimated socially when there isn’t a place on campus that specifically supports that. Because of this, hosting more social events and gatherings at the Office of International Services would be a step in the right direction for the office.
Lunar New Year and Tet are extremely important holiday for Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, respectively. Often times, plane tickets or timing are too much to figure out for a long trek home to see family on these important dates, so the Office of International Services might serve as a space to house international students, but it’s not necessarily a place for all international students to congregate. Parkside IRC does a good job of supporting international students through signature events, including ones celebrating Diwali, Lunar New Year and Persian New Year. But not every international student may have access to the residential college system.
Obviously, being separated from family and the sudden derailing of traditions can be a lot for a student’s overall well-being. This is one way the University’s Office of International Services can actually service its students.
Simply, students need a place they can confidently rely on socially. More integration between the Office of International Services and the fraternities and sororities could be a start. Maybe a collaborative effort between these two largely populated groups could lead to a more fun and easy transition for the students who are in a completely different culture. They are not the only ones who are separated from loved ones, as the large majority of students in the undergraduate program do not live at home. Thus, both parties would greatly benefit from a social event to distract from the homesickness.
This is by no means a concrete solution to the issue of depression among the international student community nor is it a shame on the Office of International Services for its meager offering of social events. The office should simply make the college experience better for a very large community on campus that faces a very unique set of problems. Not only are students coming to the United States, but the students are coming to Los Angeles, one of the busiest cities in the nation. A city like this can be very overwhelming to many people and can take some getting used to, but it would be easier if there was a place of refuge to answer life questions. The Office of International Services can definitely be this place.
Nevertheless, there can always be work done to improve the social climate on this campus. There will always be ways to improve resource centers, social clubs and student government organizations, but it really begins with awareness.
Acclimating to the new environment is something that Trojans commonly face, regardless of where they are from. Listening to the social needs of the international student community would be a great start toward improving the University’s overall college experience.