Anusha Gupta is a rising sophomore at Rutgers University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology. She is interested in completing her bachelor’s degree and then attaining a master’s and Ph.D. in Psychology, and perhaps writing a few novels on the side, as she is a passionate writer. Anusha is from New Delhi, India and when she came to Rutgers for the first time last year as a rising freshman, it was also her first visit to the United States. Like many students about to embark on their college experience, she was nervous, but perhaps a bit more so since she would also be transitioning into life in a new country.
“I was obviously as lost as any freshman on this huge campus,” Anusha noted. “I didn’t know where the resources were—and even what resources were there in the first place.” She added, “I felt the culture shock that people used to say I might face—I didn’t know the common slang and ways of communicating here.”
Enter RU-FIT (First-year International Transition), a one-credit course designed to aid international students in a successful transition to Rutgers University. The course, taught by Peer Leaders (Rutgers juniors and seniors, often international students themselves), aims to help students develop a foundation for a well-rounded college experience. Along the way, the course connects students with the many Rutgers resources available, and promotes engagement both within and outside of the classroom. Finally, the course is a great way to communicate university expectations to these new students.
Anusha took the course during her first semester at Rutgers and found the experience transformational. “RU-FIT made me aware of the large international student body at Rutgers, and the organizations that are ready to assist me,” she said. Indeed, with more than 9,000 international students and scholars, and one of the most diverse student bodies in the country, Rutgers is well-prepared to welcome and assist international students in their transition.
The topic of academic integrity, also covered in RU-FIT, is an important one for all students but perhaps especially international students as norms may vary from culture to culture. “I was aware of academic integrity through the module we were required to complete before coming to Rutgers, but this course further explained expectations and consequences and also made us aware of the honor pledge,” said Anusha.
Time management and study skills are another important aspect of succeeding at college. Anusha shared that “RU-FIT definitely helped me with my time management skills as the instructor always promoted making a schedule or time-table for the upcoming week or for finals.” Tips like dividing time among subjects, and learning about professors’ office hours were also helpful to her.
In addition, the course provided the opportunity for students to build their self-confidence by presenting projects to the class. “Honestly, this was the only class where I began answering questions and participating in class,” said Anusha. “The instructor provided a light and informal environment that encouraged students to respond.” In fact, one of her most memorable moments in the RU-FIT course was when she presented before the class.
Research shows that the first year experience for international students is crucial to success at college. RU-FIT was created in 2017 to specifically address this, and is now mandatory for first year international students enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers. Anu Gupta, Assistant Dean of International Academic Success at Rutgers Global, who worked with faculty and staff across Rutgers to create this course, shares, “the ultimate goal of RU-Fit is to assure preparedness by helping students to understand what it means to academically succeed at Rutgers.”
Anusha noted, “the skills that RU-FIT develops in an individual such as time management, team work, and presentation skills go a long way toward helping students at Rutgers—and in daily life.” She added, “I believe that most international students face similar problems that I faced when I first came here, and this course will guide them to transition better in college in a completely different country.”
“It is also a great place to make friends and help each other.”