This year, a new extended international student orientation has been implemented in hopes of more effectively addressing international student needs.
Interim International Student Coordinator and post-baccalaureate Tim Schmeling, ’11, has been working with different administrative offices to help develop the program. He has been working in coordination with Dean of Students Debbie Southern, who played a vital role in integrating the program.
“[I’ve been working with] Dean Debbie Southern. She’s been a real big proponent of it. When I came up with the idea she was really supportive and wanted me really to pursue it whole-heartedly; all of the people who have come and spoken at sessions have also been very supportive,” Schmeling said.
Schmeling’s role has been focused on creating programs to facilitate international student assimilation into the American educational system.
“[My responsibilities are] mostly in international student programming. I deal with all aspects of international student life, except for the visa registration, which is what they have to do with homeland security to be documented here in the United States, as well as with academic advising which is primarily the responsibility of their academic advisors,” Schmeling said.
The program has acted as an extension of freshmen orientation, helping freshmen with common questions regarding academic offices. The timing aspect regarding the relevance of certain information to students played a large factor in extending distribution of informational sessions.
“In my personal experience with coordinating and planning international student orientation, I felt like there were a lot of topics that we didn’t have enough time to address, nor did I feel like we had the proper time to address them. Our most recent session was on what to do in winter; well, you can’t necessarily have that conversation in September when no one is thinking about winter. So we have these sessions later on, because these will be issues that they will start thinking of, and these might be questions that they might have, but they might not necessarily know how to address them,” Schmeling said.
Freshman international student Vakhtang Tsereteli found the sessions helpful in making him feel more comfortable on campus.
“I have been attending them. First of all, they are mandatory. Besides that, it has been very helpful for me as an international student because I met other international students who are also freshmen. I made friends there and it was also help[ful] in many other ways,” Tsereteli said.
Schmeling drew upon his experiences as an international student at Knox as he developed the extended orientation program. He has looked to address problems that he encountered during his time as Interim International Student Coordinator.
“Another reason why I did it was, having been an international student myself, I knew there were a lot of resources that both of my host institutions provided for me, that I did not know that they had until I was leaving or it was too late for them to help me with the issue. So I wanted to give these students a chance to really hit the ground running as full Knox students. That way they could have the information now, right away, and then be able to not worry about it and panic about it later on.” Schmeling said.
In order to cover any concerns students may have, Schmeling has invited campus office representatives to speak on what resources are available for students.
“I’ve invited tons of different offices to speak. I’ve been really trying to get as many of the different offices on campus that most American domestic students know, as far as what they are, how to find them, how to approach them with questions, how these resources might be something for them and bring them to the international students so that they can put a face to the name. So if they see this person, they feel more comfortable asking them questions,” Schmeling said.
The session concerning academic integrity was especially critical in helping international students be successful at Knox.
“The Honor Code session was great because I didn’t know many things related to plagiarism. I think that by knowing more about the Honor Code I can avoid plagiarism. Also, I liked when international students went to a baseball game; it was the first time I’ve been to one. It was like an introduction to American culture; it was a great experience,” Tsereteli said.
Schmeling plans to expand the program in the coming terms, but remains unsure as to whether the program will continue to exist in the years after he leaves the interim position.
“It really depends who’s in this position; I’m really going to try hard to document what I did with this continued orientation program, especially if I am able to continue it during the winter and spring terms, in hopes that it is continued. But with a new person comes new ideas and new perspectives, so they might go in a completely different direction or they might expand upon what I’ve done,” Schmeling said.
“Yeah, of course [the program should continue next year]. It is necessary not only for internationals. I think that freshman orientation days were extremely helpful for adapting to a new environment,” Tsereteli said.