When Jumin Song arrived from South Korea six years ago to begin
studying in the United States, he had to adjust to a new culture
and academic environment.

Song, a student in Rackham since 2002, said he has now become
accustomed to life in Ann Arbor, yet also knows the unique and
often difficult obstacles that many international students
face.

“(International students) have to learn how to get along
with classmates, which requires other strategies than in their
native countries, and have to confront attitudes which make them
frustrated,” Song said. “Some professors expect as much
(of international students) as they do American students —
without considering the difficulties that international students
may have — while other professors apply stereotypes to
international students.”

The International Center has been helping students like Song
prepare for life at the University, but last year the center
received a 4.6 percent decrease in funding as part of a larger
series of University budget cuts, which forced the center to scale
back its summer orientation program for international students.

Despite the budget cuts, International Center Director Rodolfo
Altamirano said the center encountered only minor setbacks and
continues to work diligently to provide students with the services
they need.

In past years, the center has hired peer advisors to assist with
the summer orientation for international students. But due to less
funding, this summer’s orientation programs were run by 41
volunteers, including students, retired faculty and members of the
Ann Arbor community.

Altamirano said many of the volunteers were international
students, who were especially eager to help the program.

As a result of the highly motivated and energetic people who
volunteered, the transition from paid peer advisors was smooth and
the orientation was “very successful,” said
Altamirano.

International students are required to attend orientation at the
start of the term. They receive practical information and advice on
how to manage their finances, find employment on campus and how to
prepare for harsh Ann Arbor winters. Additionally, there are
various workshops for cross-cultural adjustment that introduce the
students to the local laws, culture and the academic environment at
the University.

For many international students, especially those who have not
traveled extensively, pursuing an education outside of their native
country means overcoming cultural barriers. Confusion over
identifying as minorities, lack of familiarity with English and
lack of financial support are just a few of the challenges they
face.

The International Center continues to offer events and social
activities to help ensure a smooth and successful transition for
international students, such as last week’s Re-Orientation,
where sessions were held on topics such as time management and
students were given an opportunity to ask questions.

Nina Metodieva, a student who transfered from Bulgaria, said the
International Center could help students from the same countries
meet each other. “I know there’s another student from
Bulgaria here, but I don’t know who he is or how to contact
him,” she said.

For now, no new cuts to the center ‘s budet are in sight.
Thomas All, director of finance and human resources for the
Division of Student Affairs, said, “There are no indications
that there will be more drastic reductions since there are no
budget cuts for international students in 2005.”

But the University is dependant on the state budget allocations,
making the future uncertain.

“We prefer to be optimistic and do not like speculating
along those lines (of more drastic cuts),” All said.
“We are not focusing on how difficult things have
been.”

Altamirano echoed All, saying, “we deal with issues as we
go, but there have not been a lot of changes. Our main issue is to
serve our students as best as we can. Things look
encouraging.”

 

— Esther Fang contributed to this report for the
Daily.

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