Office of International Services helps international students adjust to IU
By Cory Schmidt
The Office of International Services (OIS) programming mission is to support international students during their transition process and throughout their time of study at IU. The office acts as a link between international students, international student organizations and the Bloomington community.
Until recently, many programs and services for IU's international students were put on through the Leo R. Dowling International Center. Though the spirit of the center and its functions is still intact, it is now organized by the OIS, according to Rendy Schrader, director of international student and scholar advising.
Through the office, Leo R. Dowling's legacy lives on.
So, who was Leo R. Dowling?
In 1943, Dowling was appointed counselor to foreign students by President Herman B Wells. Eight years later, Dowling proposed that Jordan Manor, also known as “the Gray House,” act as an international social center. The center was moved to a farmhouse on Third Street in 1953 and eventually moved to 111 S. Jordan Ave., where it has remained for the past 54 years.
Now, the center is being moved once again. The Office of Overseas Study will begin using the house in August, while the Leo R. Dowling International Center and the Office of International Services will move to Seventh Street.
“In the end we are better off,” said Schrader. “In reality, we’ve outgrown the current center because we cannot exactly host international events.”
Programming function will continue, but will spread across a broader range of venues. The office will organize several programs at the Indiana Memorial Union and in the residence halls, such as concerts at Willkie, in addition to the cultural coffee hours they host every Friday in Teter Quad.
“International students will be more visible as a result of being everywhere,” Schrader said. “Hopefully, that will make international students feel more approachable because we won’t be up in our house on the hill. We will be in our community, doing things.”
Recent census data from fall 2011 reports that IU has 2,764 international students in attendance, a 22 percent growth in enrollment since 2007. More than half of all international students come from Asian countries, the most common being China.
Transition for many international students, however, can be difficult. Typical challenges might include loneliness and depression as a result of feeling left out of the domestic body.
“Some people might think the language is the most difficult problem, but the real challenge is the different culture and attitude,” said Jinsoo Cha, sophomore from Korea and intern at the Office of International Services. “Asian students are not used to speaking up in class. I think a lot of students may be reluctant to changing the cultural attitudes that they are used to.”
Chinese international student and junior Catherine Zou agreed.
“We have a different culture, and we live in different societies, so our topics of communication are different,” Zou said. “We aren’t always comfortable talking about topics we do not understand. Americans seem to talk about everything, like if their professor was late for class. We don’t really talk about stuff like this. We don’t think it’s any of our business.”
Along with the programs offered by the International Center, there are other services on campus for international students to take advantage of.
Counseling and Psychological Services is a free program through the IU Health Center where students can meet with professionals to discuss any issues, ranging from academic to familial to emotional.
Dr. Nancy Stockton, director of CAPS, said many international students use the service.
“They come with concerns ranging from adjusting to a new place, new food, adjusting to the academic environment,” Stockton said. “They also sometimes come with more personal issues, like coping with a family member back home who might be ill, and we work out how to be supportive to the family member and how to be a student at the same time.”
Stockton also mentioned that CAPS works with and consults various centers on campus, such as the Asian Culture Center and Leo R. Dowling to be as informed of different cultures and experiences.
Regardless of where an international student is from, the Office of International Services does its best to help these students feel as welcome as possible, despite challenges that might arise.
“If you look at why international students come here, it’s clearly because they are interested in this specific university and not just American culture,” Schrader said. “IU is a Big Ten school and, thankfully, still a relatively safe environment. I would like to see more American students show up to cultural coffee hours. I also think, while it’s easy for students to make friends from their own country, they should step outside of that box. International students need to be comfortable with participating in academic life as it relates to domestic students.