By Bridget Dougherty – Contributing Writer
The Office of International Services officially introduced the International Welcome Program in Arnow Campus Center on September 20th. Student ambassadors from the United States socialized with international students at the welcome barbecue with food and games.
Seniors Kaitlyn Conway and Aziz Gabbani were the student coordinators for this new program. Conway is native to America and Gabbani is from Saudi Arabia. They were both interested in a program for international students to feel more welcome on campus. The Director of International Services, Sarah Driscoll, decided to pair them up in order to make these requests a reality. “I knew from my relationship with Aziz and his involvement with our office, he has always volunteered at international orientation and always seemed eager to help,” Driscoll said. “He always expressed the desire to make closer relationships with new students and mentor them. I initially knew [Kaitlyn] as a student who studied in Australia, where I know that they had a buddy program. She experienced the benefits of this program first hand as a student”.
“Us as American’s know a little bit more about culture and classrooms, and international student who have been here know what works for them after transitioning from different education styles,” Conway said. “It’s supposed to be a friendship and community aspect to help these students to adapt to our culture”.
Both of these students were invested in creating this program for Lasell and were motivated in their own personal ways. “Some people have never been here; some people have never been in this kind of environment and it’s scary,” said Conway. “I remember it being scary when we were freshman, so imagine learning a second language and trying to make friends halfway across the world”.
The Office of International Services originally launched the International Buddy Program, which focuses on one-on-one relationships between native and international students.
As a senior who personally understood what the new students were feeling during their first weeks at Lasell, Gabbani was determined to create and execute a program which would last for years. “One of the reasons that I wanted to create this program is because I am an international student, and the first semester here I was kind of alone. I didn’t know who to go to or who to ask if I needed help with assignments or with a class. I only had friends of mine from back home,” Gabbani said. “I wanted help from people who are from this country, so they can help me with classes. This is one of the biggest reason why I created this program”.
Even before its debut, the program received great response from fifteen American students who applied to be mentors and went through the training prior to the barbecue. This year, there are twenty new international students. The mentors and the international students will also meet all together as a group once a month to grow relationships with one another.
Conway and Gabbani worked together with Driscoll over the summer to create seven groups identified by colored wristbands at the event. These groups will meet once a month by doing activities together or going on trips into Boston. The goal of the meetings is to get to know each other within the group while giving the international students a chance to practice their English or ask the American students questions about the culture or the different education systems. Conway said the intent is to “integrate them with the American students. I feel like they are more segregated in a way, which has always bothered me since freshman year”.
By creating this program, the team is dedicated to creating a more including society on campus. “I’m really proud of the students and I’m really excited,” Driscoll said. “If you look around the energy is just so positive and welcoming and this is exactly what we want.”