With the help of UMSL Global, this year’s international students are prepped for success
Maeva Goeffic was in her sophomore year of college in France when she decided to go abroad to continue her studies.
The international business major had never been to the United States but wanted to experience an American education. She wasn’t certain of where to go, so she did a Google search of American universities. She discovered the University of Missouri—St. Louis and became intrigued about its international business program. Goeffic made some inquiries, and UMSL Global stepped in.
UMSL Global was established in 1968 by Edwin H. Fedder and initially named the Center for International Studies. Its original purpose was to “promote internationalization of the campus and the curriculum.” The mission of the department has been expanded over the years to encourage more understanding of different cultures and communities through international and multicultural programming, which includes opportunities to study abroad and participate in student and faculty exchange initiatives.
UMSL Global is also responsible for ensuring that international students and UMSL students who are going to study abroad have everything they need to succeed in their education and acclimate to new environments and cultures.
This year UMSL Global is hosting 70 new international students from 12 different countries, the largest group since the beginning of the pandemic.
The students were introduced to UMSL through Global Triton Welcome, a weeklong orientation that began earlier this month with an address from Provost and Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Steven Berberich and Vice Provost of Student Success and Academic Innovation Beth Eckelkamp. The orientation, held the week before the start of the spring semester, included a tour of the campus and activities, speakers and workshops. Educational sessions centered on themes of money, academic expectations, registration, maintaining legal immigration status, safety, health and a general lay of the land. Students were even shuttled to Walmart to pick up home and school essentials.
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik addressing the students with a welcoming message on Jan. 14.
Feeling welcomed was a significant factor for many of the students.
Hao Lan chose to complete his degree in computer science ultimately because of the care he was shown by Professor Sanjiv Bhatia, director of graduate computer science programs.
“I sent out my resumes and transcripts and found that UMSL treated me the nicest,” Lan said. “When I talked to my department director, Dr. Bhatia, he was so nice to me. And that made me turn to choose UMSL.”
Feeling welcomed often translates to feeling included and valued, strong tenets of UMSL Global.
“It’s about communication starting from the time they apply to the time they’re accepted – making sure they know we want them here,” said Jessica Hylton, newly appointed director of Internationalization Strategies and International Student and Scholar Services. “And once they get here, doing these big events, like having this orientation, that’s to help them get acclimated. We work really hard to do that.”
Part of helping students get acclimated is providing “little pieces of home” like introducing them to international grocery stores that carry food items from their home countries. And there are other practical services UMSL Global provides such as ESL classes to help students strengthen their English skills. These steps, along with conveying that the university offers a quality education, go a long way with students, both choosing UMSL and deciding to stay.
“It had a quality education here,” Goeffic said. “So, that’s what got me interested in UMSL. The way that education is in the U.S. in general – the teachers are more friendly and more available to the students in their specialty here. At least that’s what I’ve heard, and that’s what I’m starting to notice.”
Being able to meet a variety of needs including and beyond academics is a selling point for UMSL.
“The advantage of UMSL is we are big enough to have almost everything in terms of academia, and we are small enough to have faculty resources to take the students by the hand,” UMSL Global Executive Director and Senior International Officer Liane Constantine said. “A lot of students are nontraditional students, or they have been nontraditional in very many ways like me – first-generation college students or they have worked for years before entering school. So our professors are used to helping our international students. All of our alumni tell us that’s the one No. 1 argument for UMSL – the caring professors and how they wanted them to succeed.”
Being equipped with the tools of success is another reason some international students chose UMSL.
Muluuta Simon Elvis, from Uganda, came to UMSL to pursue a degree in social work and has high hopes regarding the education and support he will receive.
“I really expect a lot from UMSL but mainly to improve my academics,” he said. “I have a great expectation that UMSL will really help me have a brighter future.
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