International Students Fall Orientation

Eighty-five international students, most from Asian nations, last week received an introduction to college life and daily living in the US. They are a cohort of young people aged 17 to 37 who are beginning their college studies at San Diego Mesa College, one of the largest community colleges in California and the nation.

The largest cohort are Asian students. Twenty-seven students come from South Korea. Two students each come from Japan, Indonesia and China. Six hail from Vietnam.

Jong Seok Kim of South Korea is a marketing student who said he selected Mesa because of its reputation, and that he wanted to be challenged in his studies.

When asked why they selected Mesa College, most name college’s reputation as one of the best community colleges in California and being “the best transfer school around.” Others noted the variety of classes and programs, and particular areas of study. Henaker Aldo of Guyana said, “San Diego has a great patchwork of multi-cultural diversity.”

So many things are different for the students, from food to the layout of streets and the city. “But I love it!” said 19 year old Joana Da Cass, from Brazil. Joana chose Mesa following a study of colleges in the area. “I liked what it had to offer me,” said the biology major.

Each year, Mesa College welcomes more than 100 international students representing dozens of countries. They join a diversified student body of more than 24,000 students that is 40% white, 20% Latino, 20% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% African American, 1% American Indian and 13% other or unreported.

The 85 incoming students come 31 countries, broken down as follows: Brazil, 5; Bulgaria, 1, Canada, 3;, China, 2; England, 1; France, 1; Germany 5; Guatemala, 1; Guyana, 2; Hungary, 1; Indonesia, 2; Ireland, 1; Israel, 3; Italy, 1; Japan 2; Jerusalem, 1; Kazakhstan, 1; Kuwait, 5; Mexico, 3; Morocco, 1; Nepal, 1; Nigeria, 1; Paraguay, 1, Romania, 1; Russia, 3; South Korea, 27; Sweden, 2; Vietnam, 6; Zimbabwe, 1.

They find out about Mesa College through online searches, word-of-mouth and recommendations from educational institutions in their home countries, and mostly from family who live in San Diego and Southern California, and friends who attend the school.

All incoming international students are required to attend a three-day orientation session. The orientation acquaints students with required immigration assessments, academic requirements, application processing and registration. Students are introduced to student support services and resources available at Mesa College. They also learn daily life skills, such as how to get auto insurance, bus routes, finding a place to live and a part time job, and money matters.

“At first, the students are quiet and wide-eyed,” says International Student Admissions Supervisor Ivonne Alvarez, “but by the third day of orientation, they are confident and relaxed, comfortable among new friends, and eager to begin their studies.” The college has a dedicated counselor for international students, and an International Student Club to offer support and camaraderie.

Jinsun Lee, 19, said that the organization skills learned during orientation was most helpful. “College,” Jinsun said, is “totally different compared to high school. Now I have to organize and plan everything myself.”