Recognizing the challenges that international students face upon arriving at the vast Florida International University (FIU) campus, the Office of International Affairs & Projects in the College of Business launched a special program to help one group acclimate.
Offered for the first time during the spring 2013 semester, and coordinated by Lisa-Gaye Shakespeare, Dual Degree student services coordinator, the Business Dual Degree International Student Ambassador program tapped six dual degree students who had already logged one semester at FIU, to directly engage with the 140 new participants in the college’s International Dual Degree program.
The ambassadors, who underwent a training program, act as a resource for the students, providing information about places on campus for tutoring, clubs and organizations, events and activities, and even accompanying them around campus, until they are able to find places on their own.
“Also, each ambassador had to plan two programs with a cultural, educational or social aspect,” Shakespeare said, “one for their group of 22 students and the other for all the new students.”
Among the activities were a bowling outing to the Dolphin Mall and participation in the university’s Diversity Week.
Ambassadors help because they’ve been there.
“I know the feeling of being lost,” said Laura Musa, who hails from the Dominican Republic. “I wanted to assist the new students in adjusting, support them and create unity within the group.”
Though the staff has many techniques for ensuring a smooth transition—and delivers VIP-level service to the dual degree students—Musa feels the ambassadors add critical value.
“We each went through the same things they are facing,” she said.
Regarding the initial offering as a success, Shakespeare is already evaluating ways to improve it.
“We will implement it in the fall so students can benefit for the full year they are here, and make it more of a mentoring program, among other ideas,” she said.
In addition to Musa, the first group of ambassadors included country-mate Bianca Beckermann, Arnaud Bouniol and Cindy Hurth from France; and Xingyue Cheng and Junhua Ma from China.