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Welcome Week: in translation

As new and old students returned to UMBC at the end of a humid August, the campus buzzed with eager students. Many partook in Welcome Week activities, which included events such as movie nights and Big Breakfast and Bingo. UMBC’s international community, however, starts the school year in a slightly different way.

International students who will attend the English Language Institute, or ELI, often arrive shortly before ELI orientation on Aug. 27. This year’s New Student Orientation took place from Aug. 27 to Aug. 29 and included English placement testing and registration for classes.

ELI Marketing Assistant and junior modern language, linguistics and intercultural communication major Tasneem Mansour expounded upon the content of ELI orientation.

“Basic orientation things include going down to the campus card center to get their red cards, getting their class schedules, paying their tuition, [sic] and a campus tour,” Mansour explained in an email correspondence. “We also let the students know about the programs we provide for them, such as the Conversation Partner Program, as well as the fall [sic] activities and trips that we have planned for them.”

Despite outreach programs such as the Conversation Partner Program and Conversation Cafe, activities on the second floor of the University Center remain unknown to students outside of the international communityStop by at noon on a weekday, however, and you can see students from many spheres of the UC’s second floor eating Chick-fil-A, playing League of Legends and even studying.

Sophomore biochemistry major Fuerdaiweisi Naijimiding further elaborated on some of the stresses international students face while studying in the U.S. Things that domestic students can take for granted are complicated for newly-arrived international students.

“Students like me really struggled. We don’t usually use online resources in China. A lot of resources are on paper, so we are searching for online stuff and it is kinda difficult for us,” Naijimiding says. “Even little things like how to buy your phone and get your sim card…[students] have to learn all of this, and many of these things are totally different from in China.”

The initial shock of English immersion is difficult for students. “The first days they come…they might have some troubles in the airport [such as] jetlag and hearing [so much English]…realizing how much they don’t understand from American people,” said Dr. Kazumi Hasegawa, the Director of International Marketing at the ELI. English learning from a textbook does not necessarily prepare students for an environment where people speak very quickly and use varied vocabulary, Hasegawa further explained.

Many students report that the support of the ELI helps students overcome these challenges. “Our motto here at the ELI is ‘You are Welcome Here.’ No matter what background the student comes from, we try to make sure their needs are met,” said Mansour.