International freshmen transition into life at Taylor
While many freshmen are already familiar with Taylor traditions and culture, most of the 46 international freshmen have never set foot on campus before arriving in Upland to stay.
The 439 freshmen who make up the Taylor University Class of 2018 come from 32 states and 13 countries, from as near as Upland to as far away as South Korea.
To assist Taylor’s international students with the often jarring transition to American college culture, International Student Orientation began on Sunday and continued through Wednesday. It operated much like a smaller version of Welcome Weekend: students participated in group activities and got to know others who could relate to their global worldview.
They arrived with few belongings, which is one reason shopping trips were built into the orientation schedule along with academic panels, detailed tours and assistance with moving into their residence halls.
Junior Vanessa Tabor, vice president of International Student Society (ISS) and on staff for International Student Orientation, is not an international student, but she relishes the opportunity it presents to engage with different cultures.
“They teach me so much,” Tabor said. “There’s something amazing that you can take from every culture, and all of them bring a little bit of that to Taylor.”
In exchange, she helps smooth their transition to Taylor life. Since it takes up to 24 hours for some students to fly home, Tabor hopes other Taylor students do their best to make the university a comfortable alternative for freshmen, especially those from overseas.
“They’re scared,” Tabor said. “Some of them have never been in a place where everyone smiles so much.”
For freshman Rachael Schwulst, the friendly Taylor community was a draw rather than a deterrent. However, she said it also represents the biggest change from the Latino culture she’s used to. She spent the last seven years in the Dominican Republic, where family relationships take precedence over friends.
“It’s much more individualistic here where over there you stay with your family and don’t leave for college,” Schwulst said.
Despite the autonomy embedded in American college culture, even students living nearby must face the ups and downs of increased independence. Freshman Taylor Tertocha is excited to make Taylor her new home but is also reluctant to leave her family behind in Columbus, Ind.
“At first, it feels like forever away, but now I’m like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Tertocha said.
Dereck Kamwesa, the coordinator of ethnic and international recruitment at Taylor, travels around the globe touting Taylor’s merits to international high school students.
“When you get all these countries collaborating together in the cornfields of Indiana, you get to see a different face of God,” he said.
Freshman Shawn Kim didn’t hear about Taylor until Kamwesa visited his school in Malaysia. He applied that same day. Kim is primarily here for the academics, but he’s also looking forward to forming new friendships.
Tabor said that the ability to develop close relationships that transcend international borders is a big draw for students from other countries.
“You make lifelong friends here at Taylor,” Tabor said. “That’s true for all freshmen, but especially the international freshmen. They love being able to go home and say, ‘Yeah, I have these friends in the United States.’ That’s what they’re really excited about: the people.”
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