Last spring, the Orient’s editorial board argued that institutionally supporting international students should be a top priority for the college. Since then, we have welcomed to campus a class with a seven percent international student population, the largest percentage of any class currently enrolled at Bowdoin. But international students’ pleas for specific resources, articulated again this week, have largely gone unanswered.
Bowdoin prides itself on the diversity of its student body, and the College has made clear that it is making a concerted effort to open its tent and provide the resources necessary to students from new backgrounds with new perspectives. International students, though there are only 89 on campus, obviously constitute a vital element of this diversity and deserve to have their needs recognized and addressed. Yet the College’s explicit focus on increasing campus diversity, including accommodating needs of an increasingly diverse study body, often overlooks this small but important group.
We reiterate the needs expressed last year. The Career Planning Center should address international students’ needs, which include straightforward but consequential changes like subscribing to online services, like GoinGlobal, that allow international students to navigate the post-grad job market with more ease, connecting them with opportunities and providing a search engine for finding H-1B visa-friendly employers.
The Office of Residential Life should address the ways that international students’ needs differ from domestic students in RA and proctor training and residential programming. For example, outside of the U.S., attitudes towards alcohol and work-life balance, among other things, are often substantially different. Moreover, current events that seem distant and theoretical for many American students can hit all too close to home for international students. In their transition to Bowdoin, international students should have adequate support and resources for navigating these differences.
As students, this onus falls partly on us as well. Institutional support is important, but not the be-all-end-all. As we navigate our daily lives—and especially during first year orientation, the first days of new classes and at social gatherings on weekends—we should be cognizant that students’ backgrounds extend past the borders of our 50 states. This can give rise to distinct social and academic challenges.
In an interview with the Orient this week, Cheng-Chun (Kevin) Yu ’19 says, “I cannot list out any events that [The Student Center for Multicultural Life] has sponsored or has done that is geared towards international students.”
Given the far-ranging nature of the Center’s work, that the center has not recently hosted an event geared explicitly towards international students is both surprising and indicative of the problem. Bowdoin should be commended for seeking out and admitting more international students. Now, they need to provide the resources that will make them comfortable in their new home. We hope we will not have to write this editorial again next year.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh and Ian Ward.