The International Students Association (INSA) is new organization forming on campus dedicated to helping students from other countries acclimate to American culture and the William Jewell environment.
Ruonan Zhao, senior, is the president of INSA. From China, Zhao chose to attend William Jewell because of its relatively small size and its biology program.
“Small schools are better than big state universities for international students in a sense that it allows us to learn more about American culture and practice our use of language,” said Zhao.
Perhaps for this reason, students from different parts of the world enroll at Jewell every year. About three percent of students are foreign nationals, according to forbes.com. These students hail from a number of different countries, including China, the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden. Many students are on athletic teams or specialized academic programs at Jewell, which both serve as incentives to attend the school and help with tuition costs. Origin countries of international students are represented by the flags hanging from the ceiling in the union.
Jewell has a special system and staff in place to accommodate international students and the needs they may have while studying in the United States, such as obtaining a visa or taking English proficiency tests. The Office of Admission, in partnership with the Office of Student Life advises students on application and banking procedures, holds a special orientation process for international students every fall, makes arrangements for housing during breaks, and takes other measures to meet the students’ needs.
Jason Groves, coordinator of International Student Recruitment and Advising, serves as a faculty advisor and advocate for international students.
While the College handles the more bureaucratic and academic aspects of an international student’s college experience, INSA’s focus is more on students’ personal and social needs.
“The goals of the INSA are to help international students adapt to American culture and make them feel like they’re at home,” said Zhao.
In order to make this transition from a different country easier, Zhao emphasized the importance of meeting other people.
“I hope international students could communicate or socialize with American students more through our events as an organization,” she said. “I made some good friends and they taught me a lot about American culture and different things. Making good friends and reaching out were definitely important steps for me when I was adapting.”
The association is new this year, and is currently waiting on approval from the Office of Student Life before it can become an official Jewell organization. Because of this, Zhao, along with Vice President Labinot Ibrahimi, senior, and faculty advisor Dr. Yuriy Bots, professor of economics, are working to make sure the group is on track to become an established organization. Much of their work at this point concerns grant approval and general start up tasks.
Thus far, the group has participated in the “Discover Jewell Video Contest” in order to gain publicity for the club. In the video, several international students express what they like about Jewell in different languages.
The INSA cabinet is adopting a long term strategic perspective.
“Our future plans include having an international week where students from different countries have presentations about unique things from their culture or things like that,” Zhao said. “I hope to see INSA really become an important part of building the diversity at Jewell. Maybe INSA can cooperate with CUA or other organizations and we can have events together.”
Zhao also encouraged U.S. students to join the organization once it is up and running.
“We welcome American students to join our community. Things would actually be easier with the help of American students. After all, international students are here to experience a different culture, but not to isolate themselves,” Zhao said.
Because of its unconfirmed status, INSA currently does not have an official meeting time. Once they are approved as an official organization, they will expand membership and begin meeting regularly.
Interested students can visit the organization’s Facebook page for updates.