News, On Campus, Featured Story

International Assistants Help Foreign Students Adjust to Life at BC

The International Assistant Program, which matches incoming international students with an upperclassman at Boston College, has opened its application for student assistants until March 28. The program is a year-long commitment, serving as an opportunity for students to act as a resource to international students and help them adjust to life at BC, in Boston, and in America. International students currently comprise 7 percent of the BC undergraduate population.

Founded in 1980, the program was originally started by a Taiwanese student who wanted to provide a better support system for international students. During its first decade in operation, there were about 30 IAs matched with 30 incoming freshmen. Today there are 75 IAs that are matched with two international freshmen and two international exchange students each—there are now over 300 international students in the program.

The IA position is especially crucial for the first month of the school year, as students are learning to adjust to life at BC. All IAs are required to return to campus by Aug. 18 in order to attend International Student Orientation. IAs also attend programs run through the Office of International Students and Scholars throughout the year, including welcome socials, a homemade Thanksgiving dinner, a holiday social, a Red Sox game, and a Celtics game.

In addition to program-wide events, there are specific gatherings for “cluster groups”—the entire group is split up into nine clusters, each with two returning IAs to organize events for the rest of the students. While the program was formed primarily to serve as a resource for the international students, it allows the BC students involved to create friendships globally without ever leaving campus.

Krissy Malonne, IA and LSOE ’19, was a freshman when she became friends with an Australian exchange student in one of her classes. He spoke fondly about his IA and his happiness with the program inspired her to apply for the next year.

“That friendship was like ‘oh wow, there are so many people from so many cool places,” Malone said. “I wanted to have more friendships like that.”

That feeling is mutual among BC and international students alike. Many students coming into BC find the social scene difficult to navigate, and the IA program is there to assist.

“The IA program was the best start to my Boston College experience,” Thomas Dijkman, a Fall 2017 exchange student, said. “During orientation I met some of my best friends who I spent my semester in America with. My IA was always open for questions and to help me out. The social aspect of the IA program is something I truly appreciate as it gave me the best welcome at BC that I could have wished for.”

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff

March 18, 2018