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New Resources for International Students

Global Programs launches two online initiatives

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Min Hyun Cho is still adjusting to life in the United States. Cho, who goes by Abbey, arrived at BU only a few weeks ago from her home in South Korea, but she credits an online class she took before arriving on campus with making her feel more confident about college life and what is expected of her.

BU First Class is a Blackboard course that all incoming international undergraduate and graduate students were invited to take this summer. Comprising short videos and quizzes that familiarize students with the American classroom and the University’s expectations about academic integrity, it was designed by BU’s Global Programs to supplement information already provided by offices like Orientation and the Educational Resource Center to make adapting to campus easier.

“Schools are pretty different in Korea, where I’m from,” says Cho (CAS’20). “By watching the videos, I could listen to the experiences of international sophomore students, who were pretty honest about what it’s like to be a freshman, and professors, who encouraged us to visit their office hours. Mine have already been so helpful here.”

In addition to BU First Class, Global Programs has also just updated its International Student & Scholar Hub, which compiles links to numerous University and Boston city offices and services, organized by tags, and divided into five subjects: academic, health/safety, career/employment, housing, and community.

Both initiatives came out of a report by the Provost’s office focused on international students’ experiences, says Amanda Miller, managing director of strategy and communications at Global Programs. The Class of 2020 welcomed 860 international undergrads this year, hailing from 74 countries, with most coming from China, followed by India, South Korea, Canada, and Taiwan. Collectively, they comprise 24 percent of the freshman class. Miller says feedback from international students noted that they had trouble finding the support and resources they needed, and the cultural differences between classroom experiences at home and at BU were stressful and confusing.

“The goals of these two programs are to make international students’ experiences here as easy, stress-free, and inclusive as possible,” she says. “Culturally, there are a lot of differences international students face when coming here, such as in areas of academic integrity and plagiarism rules. They have to learn what the expectations are and what the norms are here. They learn some of this information at Orientation, but there is so much thrown at them, so these two websites allow them to learn at their own pace at home.”

While creating BU First Class and compiling the resources found on the International Student & Scholar Hub, Miller says, her team met with students, advisors, faculty, deans, the Orientation office, distance education, and the College of Arts & Sciences Writing Center to ask for input. Unit 1 deals with the American classroom and how it differs from others worldwide, Unit 2 touches on academic integrity and expectations, and Unit 3 is dubbed “Orientation,” and gives practical advice and tips for living in Boston.

The program has received great feedback thus far, she says, and the organizers were surprised by how many students participated willingly—more than 2,100 students were enrolled, and 51 percent of them participated in at least one of the First Class units and 27 percent participated in all three units, whereas other online courses the team studied typically received a participation level of less than 10 percent, according to Miller.

While the International Student & Scholar Hub website has the word “international” in its title, it is a great resource for any member of the University community, Miller says. The site lists more than 200 resources across the two BU campuses. For instance, under the “Housing” heading, there are links to “Off-Campus Services,” “Dining Services,” and information about living with a roommate. The “Boston neighborhoods” link brings users to a list, with descriptions, of Boston neighborhoods, while another link takes you to a website about tenants’ rights in Massachusetts. Over on the “Community” page, users can find links to BU’s student organizations, child-care options, and tips for how to avoid identity theft and scams.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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