Contributed by Songling Ye
OSWEGO – The benefit for international students studying at SUNY Oswego is the wide availability of support from on campus and off campus.
Many administrative and academic support programs run on campus for international students at SUNY Oswego. International students can also get social and emotional support from organizations and individuals off campus.
According to Austin Joseph, international student enrollment specialist, the total number of international students enrolled in SUNY Oswego is 220, with most international students coming from China, South Korea and Canada.
The international student enrollment has been increasing over these four years at SUNY Oswego.
Joseph said international students do not need to pay for services, as the on-campus support programs are often already included in student tuition and fees.
The Office of International Education and Programs is the biggest organization for international students at SUNY Oswego.
“We help international students with their visa issues, medical insurance, housing problems and any other problems within our ability,” said Joann Richardson, administrative assistant.
There is a range of academic support services that are open to international students on campus, often at no cost.
Ebru Altay Damkaci, as the coordinator of English as a Second Language program, provides international students with academic and social support services.
“I am the person who goes to communicate with instructors if [internationals students] have any miscommunications with their instructors because of culture differences,” said Damkaci.
Damkaci said that no matter how much English international students have learned back home, it is still difficult for them to communicate at first, due to the fear of speaking English to native speakers.
“When there is so much they want to tell, there are limited ways of expressing themselves which frustrates them,” said Damkaci, “I even saw students cry.”
Damkaci is there to help those international students overcome the fear barrier. She suggests international students get out of their comfort zones and join some clubs, to make more English speaking friends.
A volunteer from off campus named Mary Anne Hogan, plays the same role of Damkaci in terms of providing international students with academic and social supports.
“The people I work with are all international,” said Hogan. “I mainly do English conversations with them or help them proofread their papers.”
Hogan comes to Oswego campus three days a week to help international students with their academic problems at the Lake Effect Café.
Hogan said, “if [international students] cannot come to meet me on campus, I will meet them off campus.”
Hogan has been socially supporting the international students throughout the time she has been volunteering.
She said, “My husband and I would drive those international students to Syracuse or Syracuse airport, if they ask us.”
To entertain international students at Oswego, Hogan said she usually takes them apple picking during the fall and invites them for thanksgiving dinner.
She tries to play host at least once for international students at her house before the semester is over.
Hogan said, “There are some local non-profit organizations that are willing to assist international students if they need help.”
First United Methodist Church of Oswego is a local non-profit organization that offers certain supports to Korean students.
Hogan said the pastor of the church is Korean; he helped set up a small Korean Christian group on campus with Korean students.
The group sometimes goes to the church on Sundays and interacts with other American Christians.
There is a Chinese Fellow Association in Syracuse that gives social and emotional support to Chinese students who reach out to the organization.
The association is a Chinese Christian church, but also welcomes non-Christian Chinese students.
The Chinese Fellow Association has a night meeting every Friday that gathers international students together to share their academic and life stories. The association sometimes organize some activities for international students to enrich their lives in the USA.
Yao Dong, a member of the organization, said, “The association is where Chinese international students feel like they can be emotionally supported in the USA.”
Some on-campus student organizations, such as International Student Association, Asian Student Association and associations for students of different Asian countries, are always there to assist with academic and social support.
Songling Ye is a journalism student at SUNY Oswego