Preliminary Courses For Students: Do International Students Feel Included?

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Photo courtesy of Gina Chuang.

EVERFI’s courses are mandatory for all DePauw students to participate in. The required courses for first-year students are AlcoholEdu for College, Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Although the courses are intended to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, international students have reported mixed reviews on the effectiveness of the courses. 

Elizabeth Haymaker, the international student specialist, elaborated on DePauw’s effort and resources in allocating more space both literally and figuratively for work on diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Because EVERFI’s courses are mandatory for all students, not having the international audience in mind, the school wants to provide additional sessions in the international orientation. “We try to make sure to offer tailored sessions for international students that at least supplement what has already been discussed,” Haymaker said. 

Samman Shakya, a first-year international student from Nepal, expressed that the courses felt excessive, yet included many important issues. “It was interesting to see the kind of situation and how we should react to it,” he said. He added that with those realistic resources from the courses, it is easier to know what to do in that situation in real life. 

Shaelyn Xie, a first-year international Chinese student who attended high school in America, said, “It’s really helpful for me to understand how to stand up in different situations when I see and face racial discrimination.” She explained that the examples they provided connected to her surroundings since they are all real-life situations.

After international students’ arrival on campus, many gave positive feedback toward DePauw’s effort in making them feel included. Lucia Jing, a first-year international Chinese student, said,  “When I was in China, the international students department reached out to me through WeChat, which is very nice.” Jing said that WeChat is popular in China, not in the U.S. She added that international students especially need a sense of belonging in a foreign place and DePauw is active in helping them. 

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) also receives high recognition from many international students. “When I go there, the professor said to me that that is the place for me to go to, talk to, and visit them anytime,” Saki Nakashima, a first-year international student from Japan, said. “I feel like it is like home, especially to international students because we are the minorities in this university.”

 Enoch Chen, a sophomore international student in the School of Music who experienced the entire past school year virtually, arrived on campus for the first time this fall and expressed his concerns prior to his arrival. “I thought I would probably have culture shock or difficulty talking to people or thought people won’t talk to me because I am a foreigner,” he said. However, he explained that people treat him equally and he doesn’t feel like an outsider. “We are always being remembered. We are not forgotten. Even though they know this may not be your preference, they still invite you because they want you to feel included,” Chen said.

 EVERFI Courses at DePauw: Strong in Theory, Weak in Practice

Despite the videos on diversity, equity and inclusion, some international students have to make enormous efforts in order to overcome their difficulties getting along with domestic students. “The barrier between the international and the local students is big,” Nakashima said. “I tend to talk to international students because the domestic students don’t talk to me.” 

She also expressed that many other students also struggle with loneliness at first. With time, the international orientation, her first-year seminar, and after a domestic student had a comfortable conversation with her, Nakashima said that the barrier between international and domestic students seemed to be less noticeable. 

 “There is a barrier, I think, between international and domestic students,” Karan Mahato, a first-year international student from Nepal, said. “It is about the interest and the perspective.” Although he believed that this barrier can be weakened through interacting, he admitted to feeling excluded. “Sometimes I feel like they are just being polite. They don’t want us to be in their group, but they don’t want us to feel left out,” he added. 

Haymaker spoke about the barrier between international and domestic students, explaining that it is a matter of time to build connections between students of different cultures and identities. Unlike the exchange students who are only going to study on campus for a short period of time, students who are studying in America for four years have the advantage of time to bond with each other. “Sometimes over the course of months and years,” Haymaker said.

Jing wouldn’t say there is a barrier between them, but according to her, “international students tend to hang out together, students of color, even domestic students tend to hang out with people of their own ethnicity.” Haymaker commented that it is natural for students to do that because of their mutual feelings of belonging. 

 Xie added that although it is true that international students tend to play within their own groups, it is totally understandable. “Because they are far away from home, they need someone who has a similar culture and language to talk with,” she said. “They need someone with the same culture to be brave in a foreign country.” Because they are only around 18, Xie expressed that they should take pride in their bravery and bilingual skills.

 However, there are some instances that domestic students want to include international students, but don’t know how to do so. Specifically, they would say international students’ names in a joking manner. “I understand that they just say it in a joking, fun way, wanting to include us, but I feel uncomfortable because it sort of makes fun of our cultural names,” Jing said. She voiced that next time, before they try to refer to international students, they should ask more about the student’s name pronunciation so that it doesn’t come across as offensive to them and their culture.

Haymaker emphasized that international students are brave and courageous to pour their energy and intellect into DePauw. “They are the integral part of what makes DePauw DePauw,” she said.