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Working with International Students at CSB/SJU

On Wednesday, March 17th, SELT sponsored a spring professional development event titled, “Working with International Students”.  There were approximately 68 attendees from the CSB/SJU community and student employment partners.  The objectives of the program were for participants to:

  • Increase their understanding of the international students at CSB/SJU
  • Experience international foods
  • Understand the stages of acclimation to a new culture
  • Learn strategies for working with international students

To begin the morning, attendees were treated to a breakfast of international foods.  These included: mango, papaya, scones, Irish soda bread, rice and beans, Pho’, scrambled eggs with harissa, gallo pinto, and Chai and other special teas.  The breakfast was delicious!

The presentation began with an introduction by Roger Young, Director of International Admission.   Young noted that at CSB/SJU we have 127 international students representing 31 different countries.  

Following Young’s introduction, four international students spoke about their experiences with work in the United States as compared to working in their home countries, and also about their experiences coming to the United States.   The student speakers were: Herbert Rodriguez, Costa Rica; An Doan, Vietnam; Sean Bowers, Ireland; and Savo Heleta, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

a)  b)   c) d) e)

a) Addy Spitzer; b) Sara Rothenberger, Roger Young, Viv Krueger; c) Sigrid Hedman-Dennis, Kelli Doschadis, Ardis Thompson; d) Savo Heleta; e) Sean Bowers

After the students shared their experiences, each attendee was given a form to fill out.    The form was written in what appeared to be backwards writing, and instructions were given to use the Moslem calendar for dates, fill in every blank, and ask no questions.  Addy Spitzer compared the confusion may attendees felt with the form to how international students may feel when they come to our country and have to fill out various forms. 

Following this exercise, Lynda Fish presented the five stages of culture shock.  These are: the Honeymoon Period, Culture Shock, First Adjustment, Mental Isolation, and Acceptance and Integration.  Fish also spoke about “culture bumps”, where one culture’s values and beliefs “bump up against” another cultures values and beliefs.  If these bumps are analyzed and discussed, they can lead to greater understanding, but if they are not, they can lead to stereotypes of another culture.

Attendees learned tips for communicating with international students, such as striving to pronounce names correctly, asking questions, and learning about the student’s culture.  A handout was given with common adjustment issues students often face, as well as a handout with cultural aspects of different countries.

Two video clips were shown during the presentation.  One was from the video, “Cold Water”, in which an African man described his experiences trying to understand the cashier at Burger King.  The other clip was from the video, “Frozen Water”, made here at CSB/SJU.  Students on the video talked about the need for people to get out of their comfort zone, approach diverse students, and get to know them.

There was time for questions and answers at the end.  In addition, each table had table tents with facts about different countries on them.  At the end of the program, each table learned which country was depicted on their table tent.

Door prizes were given away at the end.  These were the Cultural Affairs International Cookbook and American Ways – A Guide for Foreigners in the United States by Gary Althen.