Programs to help international students at Iona College have been centralized. Jerry Martin, ESL program director, explained that services have always been there. They were just segmented.
Now international students can resort to one contact point, and from there be directed to the correct department for whatever they need help with.
International Students Programs & Services (ISPS) is a team that consists of people from different departments collaborating to enhance the international student experience at Iona. They answer any questions and concerns of the students and their families back home.
ISPS provides services such as academic tutoring, counseling, academic and career advisement and cultural events. This team brings together the Office of Student Success, Samuel Rudin Academic Resource Center, College Assistance Program, Science and Technology Entry Program, and the ESL Program to provide these services.
The goal of these changes is to maximize the students’ learning experience, giving them the assistance they need while still treating them like a regular student. Martin says this is the balance they aim for.
A new policy that Martin stressed was having someone at the airport waiting for the students’ arrival. From the minute that they get off the plane someone would be there to welcome them and help them begin their experience at Iona and make sure they never feel alone, Martin said.
Junior Brian Moyo, an international student from Zimbabwe, told his story of arriving in New York. He left Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to come to Iona for the 2011 school year. He recalls flying into Atlanta where all flights were cancelled due to a hurricane. He had to stay in a hotel nearby for two nights. Throughout the time, he was in constant contact with his International Students Admission officer.
He explained how helpful she was in the process of finding him somewhere to stay and the frequent phone calls he received from her making sure everything was okay.
When discussing some common things done for the students Martin said, “When they arrive we help them with things like landlords, leases, furniture; basics that we take for granted. Some students even arrive without [drivers] licenses.”
Moyo agreed with Martin that the things considered ‘the basics’ for American students were something he struggled with when he first arrived. He explained that he didn’t understand the meal card at first.
“I didn’t get why people were swiping their faces to get food,” Moyo said.
This past October, a pumpkin carving night was organized for the students. Events like this are offered on various holidays. Moyo told of his experience at a Thanksgiving dinner that was offered for the international students. He said it made him feel at home.
Many different people and departments collaborate to make these events and other resources possible for the students. Martin explained it as everyone collaborating, starting with the president of the college and working its way down.
Everyone working together is one of the improvements that have been made.
Resident assistants must now attend short seminars that are given by the director of housing on how to better accommodate international students that are living in the residence halls.
Sessions for the students are also offered that focus on English conversation. The purpose is for the students to get better at the language and to provide an opportunity to meet people in a similar situation.
In addition to these programs, just two weeks ago the Iona International Club was confirmed. The number of international students on campus is just under 100, Martin says. The number is increasing along with the resources and programs offered to accommodate them.
Although there are many different people working with the programs offered, they are now centralized to make sure students’ Iona experience is the best it can be. Martin said the purpose of these improvements is to make international students feel like part of the family.