Rutgers continues its steadfast hold on its time-tested slogan, “Jersey Roots, Global Reach.”
From June 17–19, Rutgers hosted pre-departure orientation sessions in Beijing and Shanghai for 500 incoming and potential undergraduates and their parents from China. The events were held at Grand Gongda Jianguo Hotel (Beijing) and the Broadway Mansions Hotel (Shanghai).
Though the university regularly offers online pre-departure orientations for its foreign newcomers, the on-location orientation is a “strategic welcome,” according to Anu Gupta, assistant dean for Rutgers’ newly established Office of International Academic Support, because it directly serves a population of students from China, who make up half of Rutgers’ 8,500 international students.
“Each fall, we have over 2,000 incoming students from about 120 countries,” Gupta said. “They face unique challenges when coming to study in the United States. There are federal requirements, as well as requirements and preparations specific to Rutgers. Informing our incoming Chinese students about the resources available to them before they arrive – in their own environment, in their own language – helps to alleviate their stress and helps our staff to assist them in acclimating to Rutgers and a new country more efficiently.”
Spearheaded by the Rutgers Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs (GAIA Centers), the pre-departure orientation introduced a new class of Rutgers international students to the academic support services just for them.
“The GAIA Centers offer immigration and visa services for these students. Our new academic support office, which I lead, expands on those services to help our international student population integrate more completely into the classroom by identifying and addressing academic challenges unique to them,” said Gupta.
The event featured representatives from academic and administrative sectors to provide potential and enrolled students from China with an all-encompassing look at day-to-day life in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Karen Stubaus, Rutgers vice president of academic affairs and administration, welcomed students and parents and applauded the university’s commitment to academic success for all students.
“I would like to congratulate all of the students here who were accepted to Rutgers University,” said Stubaus. “We are proud to have one of the most diverse student populations in the country, and we are excited to see each of them on campus in the fall, and we are committed to the academic success of every single student on our campus.”
With the aid of a translator, students and parents heard from other high-level administrators, alumni, faculty and staff regarding academic considerations and resources, as well as guidance on student visa regulations and travel and arrival tips. A panel discussion comprised of current students and members of the Rutgers Chinese Students and Scholars Association (RCSSA) revealed facts and anecdotes about college life and experiences at Rutgers and in the United States; parents attended a separate session to help them address family concerns.
Jeff Wang, Rutgers assistant vice president for international and global affairs, said that Rutgers’ pre-departure orientation sets itself apart from similar events hosted by peer institutions because of its academic focus.
“With this event, we’ve taken our academic support resources directly to the students and parents. This event is one of the first steps that we are taking at an institutional level to enhance the academic performance of our international students,” said Wang.
Student attendees agreed.
“Before this orientation, I only had fragments of information about my school, dorm life, and where to find food,” an incoming student said. “Now, I’ve been able to piece the puzzle together, and I’m going to Rutgers with a much better idea of the courses I will take and the resources I can use. I was also able to meet a lot of new friends that I’m excited to reconnect with at Rutgers this fall.”
The event helped to allay parents’ concerns, too; one parent said that she was now “comfortable and confident about sending my child to Rutgers.” Another reported that the opportunity to participate in the orientation demonstrated Rutgers’ “sincerity and heart and the faculty’s efforts and goodwill.”
The pre-departure orientation didn’t just cater to new students. The Rutgers University Foundation sponsored an alumni reception and dinner for recently graduated students living or working in the area, providing an opportunity for new students to hear success stories and to pair up with potential mentors with similar backgrounds.
Gupta says that Rutgers plans to expand such pre-departure orientations to other countries because they offer an invaluable opportunity for students and their families to learn more about academic expectations and transition into American college life. Having other Rutgers students and university staff on hand also helps them gain a clearer understanding of important information before traveling to the United States.
“We are looking forward to continuing to extend our global reach on campus and beyond to ensure the academic success of all of our international students,” said Gupta.