International Cooking Demo
Photo provided by the World Student Association

Editor’s note: This is part three in a five part series surrounding the life of international students on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Coming to a new campus or country can be an international roller coaster for many international students. Once international students first get to the University of Wisconsin-Superior (UWS), their first step is usually to make new friends.

The orientation week is usually the first introduction of social life at UWS to international students. According to the Office of International Programs (OIP) at UW-Superior, orientation helps introduce the new international students to each other and prepares them for campus life.

This orientation usually covers many topics, including: academic advisers, immigration, telephone services, public safety, medical services, computer and library resources, and banking and transportation options. Furthermore, students are able to learn about activities around Superior.

Salisa Hochstetler, the International Student Services Coordinator, said, “in my opinion, at first, for international students, when they first arrive on campus at the international orientation, I feel that they branch out really well and get to know other people from their own country, but also from other countries.”

The various events on the UWS campus are also a one of the many ways international students make new friends. “We have activities that encourage international students to participate in and get to know other students. We did a pizza party and went to the hockey game and ate pizza together. We went snowshoeing as a winter activity,” said Hochstetler.

Cultural Night and the International Cooking Demo are two of the biggest events held on campus. Cultural night is usually held in the spring of each year and features an international food tasting and cultural performances by students. The event is sponsored by the World Students Association (WSA).

The International Cooking Demo was held on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Pilgrim Lutheran Church. Hosted by WSA, the event featured representatives of 12 different nations and 15 recipes. International students made presentations on how to prepare special food from their home countries and presented them to the community.

Rev. Will Mowchan
Photo by Sherry Mei

These events enable international students to meet new people and build friendships. Rev. Will Mowchan of Pilgrim Lutheran Church said, “some students have been here for regular church events. People here really reach out to them; they get to be friends; they do some really nice things together. Both the people here and international students, I believe, gain from those contacts.”

Since most of the international students choose to live in the residence halls of UWS, they are able to further their social life. Some students decide to live in a single room, which gives them more privacy. More traditional student residences tend to lead to more socialization. Yo Han Lee, a student from South Korea, thinks that this interaction gives international students an entry to get involved on campus. “I feel living in the residence hall helps me a lot with my social life. I met my roommate when I first came to UWS and first moved into our dormitory. That’s how we met each other, and then we became best friends. I really appreciate and am grateful for this experience.” 

Nhi Nguyen, from Vietnam, feels the same, “living in the dorm is also a way for me to keep a good relationship with my friends. Because we live close to each other, I could always visit them whenever I want so that we could have more time to hang out with each other.”

One of the most essential parts of student life is going to classes and studying. International students have the high possibility to meet new people in their classes. As Thy Bui from Vietnam notes, looking for familiar friends is probably the first thing they do when they enter a new classroom every semester. “To be honest, especially when I first came to UWS and I went to new classes in new semesters, I always paid attention to whether there was anyone I already knew before, or whether there was someone from my country, so that I wouldn’t feel lonely or nervous,” said Bui.

International students may struggle to come up with common interests with American students. These struggles can ease as international students begin to introduce themselves to American students and offer to study or work together on projects. “A lot of students put themselves out there to be involved with other activities on campus, and that’s how they make friends with domestic students,” said Hochstetler.

Keeping relationships is another key to campus social life. After getting used to UWS, many students make use of class time to improve their friendships. “If there was someone familiar, it would also be a good chance for us to keep our relationship or even grow closer, because after class we might…have more chances to hang out,” said Bui.

Asking friends for help is another way international students build friendships. Junsang Lee from South Korea often asks his friends for a ride since he does not have a car. It does not only help Lee financially, but it allows him to spend time with his friends. “That is how I became closer to my best friend,” said Lee.

While it can be difficult for international students to get out of their comfort zone and make new friends, many are making an effort to be more proactive and socialize.  UW-Superior is aiding in this proactivity by providing resources to help students feel more at home. “One thin that I have been thinking of is helping international students connect to our local community even more,” said Hochstetler, “I know that some students are already doing service-learning projects in the community, but I feel that helping them get to know other people with the community well help them branch out. Other people can help them develop their professional network after they graduate.”