Editor’s note: This story was originally produced in April during the spring semester.
(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University is home to students from all over the world — who come from Europe, Asia, South America and other locations — to pursue an education, play sports and immerse themselves in the campus community.
However, transitioning to a university in a new country is rarely an easy task, which is why Winthrop provides assistance and additional programs through its International Center to help exchange students feel welcome and adjust to life in the U.S.
“The International Center literally is here to provide international experiences and opportunities for all Winthrop students. We actually help host the international student population, so any international student that comes from other countries to study at Winthrop, we’re part of the group that actually helps take care of that particular student population,” said Leigh Poole, the director of the International Center at Winthrop.
“Winthrop has a very good international center,” said James Kachamila, an international student from Mozambique and a business administration major.
“The staff have been doing a very good job in helping you with your immigration forms, making sure you don’t get kicked out of the country in any way…so, the International Center has been a big help for all of us international students,” said Kachamila, who also attended boarding school in Switzerland.
“We absolutely offer an orientation for the incoming international students so that we can talk to them about specific things,” said Poole. “That’s everything from orientation to immigration services, to assisting them with questions they may have about jobs, career, academics and of course there are a number of other people that also help with those services, but international students have specific needs, so that’s part of the role and mission we serve.”
Poole said international students often have many questions.
“Like, how do I set up a bank account? If I don’t have cell phone service in the United States how do I get that? How do I manage and navigate the U.S. educational system? How are the faculty members different? What are the cultural differences between the U.S. and my home country?”
International students also attend the all student orientation to receive additional information about the university.
Additionally, programs and cultural events are held throughout the school year to provide international awareness, such as International Education Week in November. There are also numerous opportunities for international students to share their culture and background with other Winthrop students.
Poole said one program is called Global Friends, which is open to all Winthrop students and is designed to create engagement among cultures.
“You’re matched up with an international student then you just go hangout and spend time and get to know each other,” she said. “Then we also have Casual Fridays. Those are global cultural events usually held on Friday afternoons. There’s a different topic and you can get global cultural event credit while you interact with people from around the world, as well.”
Kachamila said he was content with his transition to Winthrop.
“Winthrop is small and I actually appreciate that, because if I went to a bigger university I would be distracted in other things,” Kachamila said. “This allowed me to focus on my work that I’m doing. Winthrop also has a very good international scene, not very big, but diverse. You have a lot of Brazilians, a lot of other people from Paraguay, from Korea, from China, so that also is very interesting.”
It’s difficult to walk on the Winthrop campus and not see an international student in the DiGiorgio Center, the West Center or on Scholars Walk, because there is such a diverse group of students.
Not only does Winthrop invite international students on campus, but the school also encourages students to consider studying abroad to gain an international experience.
“One of the things that has always been a huge hallmark that is really important to me is diversity and inclusion,” Poole said. “Having multiple perspectives…helps us understand and see the world in other people’s perspectives.”