International transfer students, students with international backgrounds and U.S. students gathered together on Dec. 5 at the Richmond Salons for coffee and laid-back conversations.
The event, called the International Cafe, was hosted by Pam Haney and Abigail Trumbo of VCU’s Global Education Office.
Haney said the International Cafe was originally created in the mid ‘90s by the Global Education Office to help international students connect with other students in an environment outside of the classroom, dining hall and other informal or formal school setting. The event used to take place twice a week but now happens monthly.
“International students, by and large, come here not knowing anyone,” Haney said. “Usually, they have left their support back in their home country … their families and their friends. To be successful academically, students need social support and healthy friendships.”
Noah Desouza, a graduate student majoring in mechanical engineering from Kuwait, said the International Cafe is important because it supports some of the most productive and hard working students in the university.
“A lot of transfer students from out of the country are studying here through scholarships or grants,” Desouza said. “This usually means that they worked hard to get here … they worked hard to find a better education outside of their own country. But in order to be successful here, they need people they can trust to socially support them.”
Aside from the International Cafe, the Global Education Office has hosted other events to help international transfer students adjust at VCU.
International students are offered monthly trips to places like Washington D.C., Virginia Beach, rafting trips through the Outdoor Adventure Program, hiking and apple picking at the Blue Ridge Mountains and other activities, Haney said.
“This Thanksgiving, we had 30 students spend Thanksgiving at American homes with American families,” Haney said. “There were 43 families who volunteered.”
The Global Education Office also helps international students find housing, set up bank accounts, apply for a driver’s license, purchase health insurance and find daycare if they have children.
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