Author Archives: Aarushi Mohan

International Student Support Office (ISSO): Getting Involved on Campus

Finding community on campus can look different for international students, particularly for exchange students who are only at Haverford for a semester. You have so many different options based on what you want out of your time at Haverford. There was a post on this blog earlier in the summer (May 31) about different communities on campus, describing ways to participate in Haverford’s vibrant student community. Here are some additional options for international students:

International Student Orientation (ISO)

ISO itself is a great opportunity to build a support network. You get to meet most of Haverford’s international student population in one place, and then you all spend five days together. We are the strongest form of support for each other; we’ve got each other’s back through the chaos of the semester. I was especially fortunate that my Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) on my Customs team was an international student, and it was very helpful to know that someone else understood and validated my experiences here. (Thanks, Kevin!) Additionally, the panels during ISO will describe ways for international students to build support networks on campus.

Later in the year, your International Student Resource People (ISRP’s) will continue to act as a resource. Your ISRP’s will check-in with you through the year and can guide you with their lived experience as upper class international students at Haverford. I’m certain they have lots of important and helpful advice to assist you in navigating challenge through the year.

ISSO Programming

You can also meet other international students by attending International Student Support Office (ISSO) events through the year. To get information about international student life related events on campus, add this link to your Google Calendar. If you create an affinity group event that you think would fit well on the Calendar, let Natasha Weisz and Denise Allison know, and they’d be happy to add it.

The ISSO is also going to start hosting a new monthly event during the year called ELF, which is an acronym for Every Last Friday. As the name suggests, it’s scheduled 2-4 pm in the MCC on the last Friday of every month of the semester. Rather than being a meeting or event, ELF is intended to be an informal space for international students to meet, and form stronger community ties. The space can really be whatever students would like it to be, so feel free to stop in as little or often as you would like.

Club Fair

The Club Fair can be a great opportunity to find campus groups that you’d like to join. It’s totally fine to be unsure of which clubs you’d like to join, the Fair is a fantastic opportunity to explore potential interests. You can sign up to get information, even if you’re not necessarily invested enough to be a regular participant in a group’s activities. It can be hard to collate information about clubs since we have around 150 of them, but this way you’re less likely to miss a group that you’d be interested in.

Make the Best of the Quaker Consortium

If the affinity group or space you need doesn’t exist at Haverford, odds are, you’ll be able to find something at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore or the University of Pennsylvania. Around 30% of Bryn Mawr’s student population, 13% of Swarthmore’s student body and around 49% of the University of Pennsylvania undergraduates are international students.

The University of Pennsylvania (colloquially called UPenn) has a massive and diverse international student population (at least compared to Haverford), so they offer a range of events related to international student life. One such event is the Penn Museum’s Festival for International Students is a great opportunity to network with other international students in the Philly area. I’ve never been myself, but my friends have only had good things to say! The event will be held on October 19, 2018. The ISSO will be emailing out more details of this event in early October.

Apart from taking classes at Bryn Mawr and Swat, you can participate in their student life if you’re looking for something closer to campus. They offer a range of great events and meetings. Their master calendars can be accessed here and here respectively.

Student Governance

Haverford has many student government positions, due to the immersive involvement of students in campus activities and the emphasis placed on student voice. This can be another way to get involved in shaping the Haverford community. The campus benefits from the involvement of international students, since we enrich discussions with our unique perspectives. There are positions on Student Council, Honor Council, and a plethora of committees. Student Council has an International Student Representative position, which was created a couple of years ago by international students for themselves. For a list of positions, you can look here, here and here.

At the end of the day though, part of the work of being an international student is creating friendships across difference. I’ve found friends in unexpected places, which is pretty common at a small, tight-knit community like Haverford. There are plenty of brilliant and kind people at Haverford, so it’s just a matter of finding people who are genuinely curious about you and your culture.

This is my last post for the summer. I hope the rest of your summers are lovely, and that your journey to Haverford is smooth! Over the last few months, I’ve witnessed first hand all the work and enthusiasm that is going into preparing for your arrival here at Haverford. I look forward to meeting you on campus, and am so excited that you’re joining our community!

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Student Support Office (ISSO): Paperwork Advice

Paperwork is a big part of the lived experience of being an international student. It is very important to be able to stay on top of your paperwork in order to maintain your status. Here are some tips on filling out forms and completing paperwork:

Read instructions carefully

Most forms come with instructions at the back, and it’s a good rule of thumb to read them through completely. You can also most likely find additional information on the website where you found the form.

In general, please read all the emails you receive from the ISSO, particularly about changes in processes for paperwork or American immigration policy.

Correctly finding your passport name

Always make sure to write your legal name. Even if your legacy or preferred name is different from your legal name (for example, if you prefer a nickname or use an English name), please still use only your legal name on official paperwork.

Your passport name should be exactly as it appears in your passport. If your passport formats your name as last name, first name, please do that. For the safest bet, look at the bottom of your photo page; copy your name as it appears in the serial number lines.

(As a side note, please check when your passport expires, so you’re ready to renew it when it’s time!)

Check what documents you may need to enclose with your form

There’s no feeling worse than getting to an office to submit your forms, and realising that you’re missing a required supporting document. Make sure to double check that you have correctly filled the application out, and that you have everything you need.

There are often conditions for what qualifies as an acceptable piece of identity proof. It’s often better to have more documents with you, rather than less. Please bring all your documents with you to Haverford, particularly for your initial meeting with the Designated School Official (DSO) Denise Allison.

Check whether the document/form can be submitted online, or has to be mailed

While some forms can be submitted online, others have to be mailed, or submitted in person at a government office. Check what method of submission a piece of paperwork requires. If the document has to be mailed, account for this in your timeline by adding a couple of days.

If you need to mail something to the ISSO while you’re away from the US, you can use eShip Global.

Addressing an envelope

Please make sure to address your envelopes properly! If you make a mistake here, your paperwork will not reach the government office in question, seriously delaying your paperwork or leaving the process incomplete. Here’s a handy infographic I found on the internet on how to address your envelopes:

(Image taken from: www.americangreetings.com/blog/address-envelope/)

You’ll need to buy stamps to send mail. You could either get them at the Haverford College bookstore in a book of twenty, or you can buy some at the Haverford Post Office (which is a ten minute walk away from campus).

Ask questions if you’re confused

If you have any concerns, or don’t understand the process for finishing paperwork, it’s always better to ask questions. A small error can change the processing time, and can make things more difficult than they have to be. You can contact the ISSO, or directly contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)/the appropriate government office.

Type out documents when you can

It’s better to fill out documents by typing them, than to fill them in by hand. Handwriting can be difficult to decipher, this can also make paperwork easier for you.

You can look at the ISSO website for links to forms. There’s also information available in the ISSO Office, which is located in Stokes 111B.

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Students Support Office: Cultural Adjustment

There are lots of little cultural adjustments to make when living in the United States. For example, being able to drink water from a tap/faucet in the U.S. really threw me for a loop. (And water fountains are a whole blog post by themselves. I have NEVER drunk from them without soaking my shirt.) It also quickly became apparent to me that there isn’t a monolithic American culture: Haverford is shaped by the communities in Ardmore and Philly that surround it. The process of adjustment looks different for everyone, but here are a couple of little things that I’ve noted over my last two years in the United States:

Meal Times

The Dining Center (DC) is open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. This was quite difficult for me to initially adapt to, since I wasn’t used to eating dinner that early. As first year students on the full meal plan, you can eat an unlimited number of meals in the DC during their hours. This flexibility in terms of meal times was weird for me because there’s a culture in my house of being regimented with meals. If you’d like coffee or a late-night snack, you can visit the Coop or Lunt Cafe.

Another point of adjustment for me was missing my mother’s cooking a lot, and just completely modifying my eating habits. I had access to American food growing up, but we still ate South Indian food almost everyday. There’s not a lot of South Indian food in the vicinity of Haverford, so it was hard to go from eating it everyday, to not eating it at all. However, it was helpful to eat familiar food at South Asian Society (SAS) events, or buy Maggi (my favorite Indian instant noodles) at an Indian grocery store in Philly. You can find comfort food through the experiences of upper class international students or affinity groups.

Crossing Roads

As weird as it might sound, this was confusing to me. Crossing roads is a lot more chaotic and disorganized in my hometown. Here, when you cross the road using the crosswalk/pedestrian crossing (I call it the zebra crossing), you have to watch for the crosswalk signals that indicate whether you can cross the road. Some crosswalks have a button that you can press to request a crosswalk signal. For more information on Pennsylvania’s Laws click here, and for a summary of Pennsylvania’s Pedestrian Safety Laws, click here.

It’s also customary to thank a driver who stops for you by making eye contact, or raising a hand in greeting.

American Stores

Even though I’ve lived at Haverford for two years now and have visited America previously, stores are incredibly overwhelming for me. There’s a lot of choice, even for the most innocuous items. The best strategy is to know what you need in advance, and to go in with a shopping list.

If prices are too confusing, look at the unit price. Not accounting for discounts, the item with the lowest unit price will be the cheapest. Additionally, most stores offer a store card, which can get you coupons or other discounts. The process is usually quite simple, and involves just giving your name, email and phone number.

Here’s a story from my friend about their experiences with cultural adjustment:

Farid Azar Leon ‘20

One of the greatest culture-shocks I’ve had during my time in the US is salutes. In Mexico, when you go to a social event, or whenever really, men do a handshake with each other, and kiss women on the cheek, whereas women kiss everyone on the cheek, both men and women. The handshake consists of smacking palms of the hand (like a horizontal high-five) followed by a fist bump. So, whenever I would meet men in Haverford, I would do that handshake with everyone, since I reasoned that the kiss may be uncomfortable for people in general. While I attempted to smack the person’s hand, they would attempt to grab it as if it was a regular handshake, and when I lift my fist for the fist bump, both the person and I would be confused: me because I would be waiting on the handshake, while the person for not expecting that fist, or not knowing what to do.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions! Cultural adjustment is a two-way street, in that American students can meet you halfway. No one expects you to have everything figured out, and cultural differences can be difficult to name and navigate. Feel free to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable; your curiosity will benefit everyone around you. At the very least, you’ll have some great stories! (I certainly have dozens.)

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Student Support Office: Packing Tips

Note: Please make sure you finish the ISO registration form by July 15, 2018, and send your travel itinerary to Natasha Weisz (nweisz@haverford.edu) by August 12, 2018!

Packing for college marks a milestone in your journey to Haverford. It’s both an exciting and daunting time: you may be unsure about what college life in the US would be like, and what you would need. You are certainly not alone in this! I remember being overwhelmed during the summer before college. I was worried that I would miss something, and that I would have no way to get it from India. Here are some packing tips that will hopefully make the process less stressful:

Making your Haverhome: Think about what you need for your well being, apart from just practical objects. Bring belongings that reminds you of home, to make your space your own. This can be photographs, sentimental items, or foods. Decorating your room is a great way to bring your family and culture with you. For example, I brought letters/cards from my family and friends, my grandmother’s saree and my high school yearbook. Just make sure to check Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s list of allowed items and Haverford’s Residential Life Handbook.

Being mindful of how much you bring: Haverford no longer offers on-campus storage, so take time to think about what you truly need. If you go home for the summer, you’ll have to spend money on off-campus storage. I definitely brought a ton of things with me that I have never used in the last two years, like a very heavy Post-It dispenser. (Who was I two years ago? Why did I think I needed that in my life?) Having carried a dozen boxes down three flights of Barclay stairs at the end of my first year, I believe that it’s helpful to envision packing up your room, and consider what you’d be able to do. Also, account for the fact you will accumulate items over the course of the year.

Deciding which items to bring from home, rather than buy in the United States: Some of you will be travelling a long distance to get here, and will only be able to bring a couple of suitcases worth of belongings with you to the United States. This means that you will have to make choices about what to bring with you in the limited space you have. You can use the shopping list that was emailed to you with information about ISO and last week’s post here on the First Year Blog as guides. Balance what you can get cheaper in your home country with the amount of space you have. While some things might be much cheaper in your home country, they might take up a lot of valuable space. There will be a shopping trip during International Student Orientation (ISO) for you to pick up these items!

Packing clothes: I recommend buying winter clothes in the United States if your home country doesn’t experience snow. The International Student Support Office (ISSO) will organize a winter shopping trip during the fall semester. It will also be very hot when you get here, so be mentally prepared and packed for that. I expected fall weather, so I ended up having to buy more summer-appropriate clothing.

Though there isn’t a dress code for classroom spaces at Haverford, it’s a good idea to bring a couple of pairs of formal clothing for interviews or networking opportunities. I’d also suggest bringing some traditional clothing from your culture if that’s what comfortable wearing, and for cultural events on campus. In general, it’s a good idea to pack staple clothing pieces you can layer easily, since the weather here is so unpredictable.

Shipping items to Haverford: You can ship your belongings to your Haverford address, if you would like to do that. Please write your Haverford address as follows:

Your name, Class of 2022
c/o Denise Allison (ISSO)
370 Lancaster Avenue
Haverford, PA 19041, U.S.A

Since the mail room has limited storage space, please don’t order packages too far in advance of your arrival at Haverford. You can collect packages at the Mail Center, which is located on the first floor of the Whitehead Campus Center. You will need your OneCard (which is your Haverford student ID card) to do so. If you have any questions, you can email Central Services at hc-centralservices@haverford.edu. If you ordered linens through the Residence Hall Linens Program, you will be able to pick them up at Stokes Hall on the opening day of ISO.

If you have a roommate/suitemate, communicate with them: Housing assignments will be out end of July-early August. Once you know where and who you’re living with, you will have a better sense of what items you will need/want. Your packing list will vary depending on your dorm. For example, if you don’t live in Tritton or have an accommodation, you will most likely need a fan. If you have a roommate, please contact them and figure out what you’re both buying so you don’t have duplicates of the same item. You’ll be able to shop and pack as efficiently as possible this way. (Regardless, communication is a good foundation for living together.) Additionally, you can ask your Customs team members about the dorm you’re going to live in, or other questions about packing/moving in.

Most importantly, remember that even if you forget something, you will be able to buy it here in the United States. Aim to pack everything, but don’t get too stressed if you accidentally miss something. I believe in you, you’ve got this!

Adapted from:  https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/international-student-counsel/2013/04/25/packing-dos-and-donts-for-international-students

 https://www.hamline.edu/students/international/admitted/packing.htmlwww.collegexpress.com/interests/international-students/blog/college-packing-advice-international-students/

 https://www.ithaca.edu/oip/docs/intl_stdt_info/intl_orientation/packing/

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Student Support Office: American Measurement and Time Conventions

Hello, friends! A big part of the transition to life in America is adjusting to conventions of measurement and time. This blog post is kind of a fact sheet, with different types of information. I understand all these names and details can be overwhelming, so I made some bad, low quality memes (with Blien and Isabel’s assistance, of course). Feel free to skim through this post now, and come back whenever!

Eastern Standard Time (EST)

The United States has four main time zones: Pacific Standard Time (PST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), Central Standard Time (CST), and Eastern Standard Time (EST). This means that you need to convert time between different American cities; it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re interviewing with an organization in a different time zone, watching a live television broadcast, or talking with a friend in another part of America. Here’s a handy guide for the time difference between the different zones-when it is 9:00 a.m. in California (PST), it is 10:00 am in Denver (MST), 11:00 am in Chicago (CST), and 12:00 noon in New York (EST).

Pennsylvania is in Eastern Standard Time (EST), so please make sure that all your digital devices and apps (like Google Calendar, for example) are set to EST.

Daylight Saving Time

Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually called Daylight Saving Time, and not Daylight Savings Time. It’s certainly okay to say it either way though!

During Daylight Saving Time, clocks are set forward one hour. It begins on the first Sunday in April and ends on the last Sunday in October. The mnemonic: “Spring Forward, Fall Back” will help you remember how to set your clocks. While Pennsylvania conforms to Daylight Saving Time, the state of Indiana doesn’t. For more information, here’s a pretty thorough explanation of the history and reasoning behind daylight saving: www.livescience.com/56048-daylight-saving-time-guide.html

The days in April and October when the time shifts can be disorienting, just because you gain/lose an hour of your day. My first year at Haverford I didn’t fully understand daylight saving, so I was struck unawares. Another effect of daylight saving (in combination with other geographical factors) is that the days feel shorter during the winter, and much longer during the summer. This can be strange to adjust to, but you learn to tailor your day around the number of daylight hours.

International Time Conversion

Another aspect of time conversion is figuring out the best time to reach people back home. International students often feel caught between their life at college and their life in their home country. Being able to connect to family and friends was crucial for me as an incoming first year. It might take time to be able to convert time in your head, but once you have, things will be much easier. For example, Philly is nine and a half hours behind my city Bangalore, or ten and half hours during daylight saving. I know now that the best windows of time to reach my family is either 10 p.m.-1 a.m. or 10 a.m.-2 p.m. This is just a matter of practice!

Systems of Measurement

Since America doesn’t use the metric system, they have the United States customary/standard units instead. Here’s a conversion table for the most commonly appearing units: http://www2.beaufortccc.edu/learning-enhancement-center/docs/resources/math/conversion_chart.pdf

Temperature

Fahrenheit is to describe temperature in America. If you, like me, come from a country that uses Celsius, this can be confusing. While I still am not proficient in the Fahrenheit scale, here’s a handy chart on Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion. It should be helpful in getting a rough sense of what Fahrenheit temperatures mean:

F C Description
212 100 Boiling point of water
98.6 37 Normal body temperature
86 30 Hot summer day
72 22 Room temperature
68 20 Mild spring day
50 10 Warm winter day
32 0 Freezing point of water
20 -7 Very cold winter day

 

Calendar dates

Calendar dates are written the opposite way to most countries, here in the United States. Looking at deadlines used to stress me out in my initial months at Haverford, because I’d still read the date as I did in India. While dates are written as month/date/year in the US, many other places write them as date/month/year. For example, if the date is May 29, 2018, this would be written as 05/29/2018 in the U.S. This is understandably counter-intuitive, but thankfully, most paperwork will indicate how they want you to format the date.

Pro tip: Just write out the name of the month if instructions aren’t clear, or while you’re still adjusting to the American system.

Bonus!!: Electrical Voltage

Only the below two plug types will work in the United States; please make sure you purchase electrical/travel adapters. Adapters will allow you to plug your device into American electrical sockets. Plug A can work in both types of sockets, so you can use them in a wider variety of situations.

                     

Type A                                                  Type B

Photos are from https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/us/united-states-of-america/

It’s a good idea to invest in one or two, since they’re an essential item. Multi-plug adapters are useful, because they can charge multiple devices at once. I recommend buying adapters that come with USB ports; I have one, and it has served me well.

The standard voltage in the United States is 120 V, and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. If you are bringing electrical appliances from your home country, please make sure they are the correct voltage and frequency, because adapters can’t modify this. Keep this in mind as you’re shopping for college. It might be easier to procure some items in your home country, but they may not work in the United States.

(This material has been adapted from older versions of the International Student Resource Person (ISRP) Training Guide)

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Have feedback for my memes? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Student Support Office Blog Post: International Student Orientation (ISO)!

*There is information about deadlines for incoming international students at the end of this blog post, so please read it in its entirety!*

International Student Orientation (ISO) is a Pre-Customs program designed to ease the transition of international students to living and studying in the United States of America. Here at the International Student Support Office, we understand the program to be, “focused on creating opportunities for students who have not lived in the United States for an extended period to begin understanding their identities within an American context, and also start accessing resources necessary to flourish throughout their Haverford careers. Consisting of workshops, activities and excursions, ISO is not just orientation but there is continued support via a year-long program spread throughout Pre-Customs (the week before the start of the Customs Program) and the academic year.”

This year, ISO will take place on August 25, 2018-August 29, 2018. Please ensure you make travel arrangements with your visa in hand; you should plan to arrive at Haverford between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on August 25. If you have any questions about ISO or your travel arrangements, please email Natasha Weisz, Coordinator of International Affairs (nweisz@haverford.edu).

Here are the accounts of two upper class students describing their ISO experience:

Karina Domenech 

Hello! My name is Karina Domenech, and I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, attending the ISO program was optional. Although Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, culture and tradition are very different. Therefore, I chose to attend ISO because I was extremely eager to meet incoming international students who shared this in common, and learn about their culture and tradition. Being in ISO was a stepping-stone towards creating a strong foundation in Haverford. By continuously having activities of sharing and listening to fellow peers, ISO gave me the confidence to engage in multifaceted dialogue, giving me the opportunity to create beautiful bonds with other students. With ISO, I was also able to reflect on my own identity, and learn about and appreciate all the things that make me who I am. My favorite memory of ISO was the first day, hearing everyone’s introductions, and thinking to myself that this would be a very special experience. A piece of advice that I wish someone had given me during ISO would be to not be scared of stepping out of your comfort zone. I know this might sound cliché, but it can be very easy to settle into a group that shares a similar identity to yours. Even though this is quite all right, make sure to keep your doors open! Everyone is on the same boat and eager to learn and make friends. Try to take everything in as much as you can because experiences like these don’t always happen. Peace and love to all incoming freshies! <3

 

Karla Sofia Garcia 

Initially, I was adamantly against going to ISO. I thought to myself, “If I’m legally not an international student, is ISO really a place for me?” As it turns out, ISO is more than just papers and formalities; it’s a tool for adjustment to a new phase in life. College! In the United States of America! This might not sound like a lot for local students, but for those of us who grew up somewhere other than the US mainland, or have spent a lot of time away, it is a pretty big change. Culturally, you will notice differences that might put you off guard. Academically, whether it is a different language than you’re used to, or the switch to a small liberal arts classroom setting, it might take some time to adjust. Socially, it might be a whole other playing field than what you’re used to. Like with all new experiences in life, you might be overwhelmed by it as a whole. And that’s okay. Precisely, that is where ISO stepped in for me. It gave me the space and time I needed to process the fact that I was far from home, in a new environment that was unfamiliar for me, and about to start college at Haverford. I also met some of my best friends thanks to ISO! However, there is only so much ISO can do for you. Ultimately, the best transitions are led by you. A piece of advice: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there post-ISO. Learning occurs both in the classroom and outside of it, so as you go through ISO, get excited to experience life at Haverford.

As a reminder, ISO registration forms are due on July 15, 2018. Please send your travel itinerary to Natasha Weisz (nweisz@haverford.edu) by August 12, 2018. For the complete checklist of tasks for international students, please refer to: www.haverford.edu/international-student-services/new-student-orientation. Please note that you must complete these tasks alongside the checklist for all incoming first year students, which can be found at: www.haverford.edu/first-year-students/checklist

We look forward to meeting you at ISO in the fall!

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Student Support Office Blog Post: Five Tips for Easing Academic Adjustment(s)

Haverford is a pretty unique academic experience for a number of reasons including our faculty, the small class sizes, the range of classes available through the Quaker Consortium (Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania), and the Honor Code. This can be a major adjustment for any incoming first year, but this is especially true for us as international students, since we are simultaneously adjusting to multiple aspects of life at Haverford and in the United States. Here are five tips that helped me navigate my academic life at Haverford:

(A Quick Disclaimer: These tips come from my experiences in predominantly Humanities classrooms, and reflects things I’ve learnt in my academic journey. This might look incredibly different (or similar!) for you depending on your academic interests and backgrounds. The most important thing is to find what works for you, using the resources Haverford has to offer.)

1. Think about your schedule carefully: Since visa-carrying students have to maintain a full course load of 4 credits each semester, it’s important to think about your course load. Take time to consider how you’ll balance academic commitments with a job, extracurriculars and time to relax and have fun. Of course, your UCA and Pre-Major Advisor can assist in this process. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to start with fewer activities than you did during secondary school, and slowly add more as you begin to understand what you want your life at Haverford to look like.

2. Create a support network: Seek out resources to adjust to  American academic conventions and classroom dynamics, like the Writing Center and the Office of Academic Resources (OAR), early in the year. I highly recommend working with a Writing Center partner, who is a Writing Center peer tutor you meet every work to discuss your writing assignments. One of my biggest fears coming to Haverford was accidentally violating the Honor Code by committing plagiarism because I didn’t understand citation styles. You can speak to your Honor Code Orienteers (HCOs) to understand what the Honor Code expects of you. Dean Glanzer is also a support and can help you build your resource network. There are tons of other types of academic supports which will be covered in an upcoming First Year blog post!  

3. Seize all the opportunities available to you: There’s always a lot happening on campus, and it can be hard to keep up with it all. It can be helpful to follow clubs and academic spaces you’re interested in on social media and subscribe to their emails lists to stay in the loop. Academic centers like the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Science Center (KINSC), and the Hurford Center for Arts and Humanities (HCAH) have lots of funding opportunities, which range from stipends for attending conferences and doing research, to support for pursuing independent scholarship.

4. Make the best of the flexibility offered by a liberal arts education: The domains system encourages you to take classes in fields of study that are outside your comfort zone. I struggled with the natural sciences in high school, so being able to take classes that discussed intimidating topics in more approachable ways has been great. I’ve really valued the possibilities for intellectual exploration, be it through classes or academic spaces (like New Philosophers’ Club or the Bryn Mawr Classics Colloquium). You can also find ways to connect your communities back home with your academic life at Haverford. Last semester, I took a religion course called “Poetics of Religious Experience in South Asia”, and it helped me explore my experiences as a Hindu woman in an academic setting. I cannot stress this enough: your academic journey at Haverford is really what you choose to make of it!

5. Prepare for the academic culture to be different: This may be different than your secondary school, but at Haverford, students are active participants in the creation of the classroom environment. Professors want to hear from you, and will actively encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions. It is expected that you will come to class prepared to engage in discussions about the assigned reading. It’s okay (and totally normal) to not always have fully formed ideas about the reading, but the professor will want you to demonstrate that you’ve thought critically about it. Learning how to take up space in a classroom takes practice, so think of each class as an opportunity to develop this skill! You can also talk to your professor during office hours, where you can further clarify your understanding of material discussed in a class or explore topics that didn’t fit the classroom space. The American grading system may be very different than what you experienced in secondary school. My high school gave me grades in terms of percentages, so the system of letter grades and the Grade Point Average (GPA) on a scale of 4 was alien to me. I wasn’t sure how I was doing, or what the difference was between a 3.3 and a 3.7, for example. Moreover, we don’t talk about our grades at Haverford. This can be jarring if you came from a more competitive secondary school. Personally, I’ve found the emphasis on intellectual growth healthy and productive; I’ve enjoyed setting my own standards and goals.

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.

International Student Support Office (ISSO) Blog Post: Introduction!

Hello international student friends! My name is Aarushi, and I’m the summer Dean’s Office Intern working in the International Student Support Office (ISSO).

Here’s a little more about me: I’m an international student (on a F-1 visa) from India, but I’m a Canadian citizen. Though I was born in Canada, I haven’t lived there since my birth; I grew up and went to school in Bangalore, India. I actually went to the same school from the first to the twelfth grade, so leaving such a tight knit community was difficult for me. I was pretty homesick my first few weeks at Haverford, and tried to drown myself in homework as a distraction. Despite English being my first language and growing up with a lot of access to American media, I still experienced a fair amount of cultural shock. There were lots of little things to adjust to, like eating dinner around 5-7 pm, drinking tap water, and pressing the button on stop-signs to cross the road. I’ve finally learnt strategies to manage my homesickness, which include eating Indian food with my close friends on campus, FaceTiming my mother to speak my mother tongue (a South Indian language called Kannada), and reading poetry. A big part of this transition is learning to ask for what you need, and setting up support networks on campus. This is a process, and we’re all here to assist you in whatever way you would need/want!

Apart from the social and cultural adjustment, I also had to adapt academically. I matriculated in both ICSE (which is a national Indian education board), and then A-Levels during my high school career. However, the main form of academic assessment at my secondary school was exams, so I didn’t have much experience with academic writing. Though I was incredibly nervous, I was able to access many campus resources through the last two years. During my first year I was placed in the Writing Intensive program, which meant that I got feedback and support from two incredible professors and groups of my peers. The Writing Center was also a very helpful; my wonderful writing partner Elom gave me pointers on structuring papers and American academic conventions. Elom is an international student himself, so he was able to speak from his experiences as well. The most important thing to remember while navigating academics at Haverford is that you are brilliant, capable and here for a reason!

Following the theme of the previous blog post, here are some of my favourite things:

Favourite American Snack? Nacho Cheese Doritos. The dust is terribly inconvenient, but they’re too good for me to care!

Favourite Haverford Tradition? Pinwheel Day. It’s finally sunny and warm again after a long and harsh winter. Plus, there’s no way to destress before impending finals like hanging out with friends on Founders Green.

Favourite HaverPun (I know we have too many of these, but I swear you’ll get used to them)? HaverCat. Valentino is no longer on campus, and I miss him sorely. You can still follow his shenanigans at: www.facebook.com/havercat/ or www.instagram.com/thehavercat/?hl=en

Favourite Silly Mistake I Made When I First Got to Haverford? I thought the arboretum was a place on campus, rather than the whole campus itself. I only recognised my error after asking my first-year roommate for directions to the arboretum.

Favourite Tree?

It’s located behind Barclay Dorm, and has a great view of the Duck Pond. My friend Gilbert showed it to me during my first year, and I go there whenever I need a moment of solitude/reflection. 

This post is part of a series about international student life at Haverford, so look out for these posts every Monday! I hope to cover different aspects of living and studying in the United States, and a wide range of student experiences. After all, the international student community is not a monolith by any means; we come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and identities. Being an international student is unique and rewarding in its own way, and all of us here are super excited to welcome you to the family!

 

P.S.: Have post suggestions? Here’s the form to submit them! I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, and speak about my experience as an international student at Haverford! I’d love to know more about you as well. Feel free to email me at amohan1@haverford.edu, or find me on Facebook.