The University of Findlay prides itself in creating an environment resembling a ”home away from home” for all students. For international students, it can be overwhelming when transitioning to a new country with different languages, teaching styles and cultures. The Foundations Program was designed to assist with that.
“When looking at individual students’ academic records, I found that international students tend to struggle in many of their undergraduate classes,” said Erin Laverick, associate professor of English as an international language and director of the Intensive English Language Program. “Many of them said they were just overwhelmed with lecture-based classes, participating in class, managing their time, making friends, etc.”
This inspired Laverick to find better ways to support UF’s international students as they transition into academic studies in the U.S. The Foundations Program was then incorporated into the first-year seminar (ENIN 350) and taken by all international students to assist with navigating the social and academic climate of UF through mentorship by faculty and staff volunteers.
Students in ENIN 350 participate in a lot of team building activities, interact with American students, participate in campus events and journal about their experiences. The goal for The Foundations Program is to help students participate in on-campus life, utilize campus resources and find academic success.
“With their mentors, students are encouraged to meet and talk about any issues they might have, but many mentors go above and beyond simple meetings,” said Laverick. “Last semester, Brad Hammer took his cohort to a pumpkin farm. Craig Haines carved pumpkins with his students and Elkie Burnside invited students over to her house for an international meal.”
English literature major Rino Okazaki credits The Foundations Program with helping her learn about religion in America when she came to the University from Japan. With her mentor, Rachel Gerber, assistant director of international education, Okazaki visited Gateway Church and joined in worship.
“I realized that religion is associated with language and culture,” said Okazaki. “I respect the culture and it is helpful to understand how Christian people think.”
The faculty and staff who volunteer for The Foundations Program have gone beyond preparing students for academic success. The time and care provided through mentorship impacts students in a number of ways.
“Last semester, we had a student who was ill and needed medicine from the pharmacy,” Laverick explained. “Her mentor picked it up for her because she didn’t have a car. It’s a little act of kindness, but for a student who doesn’t have a car or does not know how to navigate a U.S. pharmacy, this meant a lot.”
As international students start their journey at UF, The Foundations Program ensures a positive support system to make the transition into the culture here much easier.
“It is important to have a person (mentor) who cares about international students. Some international students struggle with culture shock, classes and homesickness,” said Okazaki. “Mentors are reliable people for us because they consult our problems and teach us American culture.”