IEEC: Creating international connections
How one student organization is creating an international campus and community.
November 30, 2010 6:16 PM
It is August 15, a little over a week until the fall semester will begin, and loads of international students congregate on the rooftop of Medjool on Mission Street. They hold their ice-cold Stellas looking quizzically around at the "summer" weather and huddling together for warmth in small groups. Many have only been in the city for three to four days, but they have already bonded with one another.
SF State currently has 2,000 international students enrolled with the largest being from Business department. SF State's M.B.A. program takes the eighth position in the U.S. for Greatest Opportunity for Minority Students according to the Princeton Review's "The Best 301 Business Schools: 2010 Edition". SF State also boasts almost 300 clubs and organizations.
Noah Kuchins, International Exchange Programs Advisor at SF State, believes that San Francisco is an ideal location for many people, which may account for the high enrollment rate. But, it's not just a fluke thing. "The administration has put an emphasis on creating a campus diversity and that includes an international atmosphere," Kuchins says.
One of the ways is through the International Education Exchange Council (IEEC). The IEEC creates a unique structure for American students and international students, whether they are here for a semester or their entire college experience. More than 100 universities have students who want to study abroad, says Kuchins. Since 1994, the IEEC has allowed students to create connections.
Katrine Vinter Troelsen is an exchange student from Denmark who came to San Francisco to improve her English language skills. The blue-eyed marketing major is co-chair of the IEEC public relations committee. "The IEEC makes you much more involved in on-campus activities and also you meet a lot of new people--both American and International," Troelsen, 23, says. "Thought it takes a lot of work, it is fantastic to experience such teamwork and joy among students. It also makes you feel that you are never alone."
"The IEEC is always organizing things," says Victoria Kondrashon, 21, a cinema major for University of East Anglia in England. "It helps draw students together." Arriving at a new school, let alone in a new country, can be daunting. Many of the international students studying during the fall semester had one expection of San Francisco and after arriving it had changed quite a bit. One student, Greg Jackson, 20, had friends who had visited California previously. "They told me San Francisco was like the less vain sibling of Los Angeles," said Greg Jackson.
Although some students like Hayley Burrows from Brunel University in England did not have much of an opinion of San Francisco, but instead came with an open mind. "I'm the kind of person to go and seek out my own friends," says Burrows, 20. "[The IEEC] is an immediate community, which I liked and I now feel like I have connected better with the American students."
Whether you prefer to make friends on your own or if you're the type of person that needs a bit of a push the IEEC seems to meet all needs according to Jesper Norby, 25, from the Danish School of Journalism. "While I've met plenty of people through other channels, the IEEC provides a great platform for social interaction with people all over the world," says Norby. "I don't think I would have had as good an experience if it wasn't for the IEEC."
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