My first year seminar for international students

This past fall, I taught a freshmen seminar for international students. In the class there were 19 students from all over the world – China, Greece, Singapore, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, Vietnam, Myanmar and England.

The class met on Thursday afternoons. I recruited 4 current UMASS students to serve as TA/mentors for the international students and they met as a group weekly.

Dean Baker with her first year international student seminarThe course was developed to help students transition to campus. Representatives from various offices spoke to the class - International Programs, Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, CMASS, Center for Health Promotion and the Dean of Students. Periodically throughout the semester students submitted a journal reflecting on how the semester was going including getting use to classes, living in the residence halls, attending co-curricular events and interviewing a faculty member. A panel of upperclassmen international students shared their experiences with the freshmen – from feelings of homesickness, to getting use to American food, to understanding slang expressions such as “what’s up?”

We also toured some places on campus – the Dubois Library and the Recreation Center. The international students seemed to enjoy the class and found the material covered beneficial. Here are some end of semester comments:

  • “I definitely enjoyed the course. It’s helpful for me to get involved in school and the community.”
  • “Before coming to UMASS, I was scared – how would I adapt to the whole new country, but because of the class, it made the transition easier.”
  • “My favorite part of the class was when other international students shared their experiences.”
  • “I had the chance to exchange my culture with others and nowadays most of them are my friends.”
  • “I enjoyed meeting with my TA every week, she already knew a lot about the campus."