By Koun, Mike, and Brandon
How can we assist international students with their transition to Penn State?
International students have problems before they come over. Based on what we already knew of (before we started interviews), the official website that Penn State provide for the international students was lack of information on life (i.e. housing, transportation, and etc.), and lack of language support.
There was uncertainty about how they get all the information, and resources to make transition of their lives to a new environment when the institution doesn’t provide sufficient support for them.
1) Interviews with international students from different communities
(3 Korean, 1 Dominican Republic, 1 Puerto Rican, 1 Turkish)
2) Analysis of resources from researcher’s experience as an international student.
(Websites, physical materials)
Understanding of the problem – Initial findings
- Unofficial support groups have already been set up through mediums such as facebook or a number of websites for various groups of international students. These support groups are not officially through Penn State.
- Various groups of international students each have their own specific problems when arriving here, with varying amounts of overlap between
- Problems include: Trouble finding housing, trouble obtaining specific materials such as cooking ingredients, difficulties with language barriers (especially for casual settings), limited resources offered by Penn State in English, cultural gaps, tendencies to stick to isolated cultural communities, and trouble adapting to the local environment.
- Many incoming international students find a pre-existing connection they already have in Penn State to aid in the transition, often through family or friends.
Support communities arise organically, or are even self organizing. For example, international students may create Facebook groups a year or more before coming, and share questions, concerns, and solutions. Communities also exist at Penn State already, and draw on the experience and language skills of settled international students. In either case, these groups can be understood through the lens of communities of practice. Settled students could be understood as core members (especially group officers, organizers, etc) and incoming international students could be understood as peripheral participants.
These communities have different resources available, reflecting different problems. They have different solutions to different problems. Through our initial research, we reached the conclusion that the most effective approach would not be to attempt to address specific problems, but to assist existing groups/communities in being able to address problems in general.