Any first-year student may have a hard time navigating campus, but international students coming to the University of Georgia may encounter more challenges during their first week of school.
As reported in The Red & Black, that’s when the Department of International Student Life has jumped in to help make the transition as smooth as possible through their World Leaders Program.
During international student orientation, world leaders welcome all new international University of Georgia students by providing guidance when exploring a new campus and new country.
Sai Nagula, a senior coordinator at the Department of International Student Life at UGA, who was born in India but moved to the U.S. at a young age recognizes the challenges that international students deal with as they transition to a new culture during their college years.
“I definitely understand that it’s a lot more challenging as an international student to come to the U.S. … because you’ve spent most of your life in a certain country and now you’re trying to adjust to the U.S. system and the U.S. culture,” Nagula said. “Personally, I think [international students] have it a little bit more challenging as students, whereas I came at a young age.”
Nagula remembers how he got involved with ISL and the World Leaders program in his first year at UGA. After seeing an announcement for the program, he decided to apply for a position.
Nagula served as a World Leader and a Senior World Leader.
Justin Jeffery, the director of ISL, said the program places current students as a peer resource for international students that are enrolling at UGA each fall and spring semester.
“The students that are World Leaders are the most closely situated to the realities of what it means to be a UGA student,” Jeffery said. “Many of our World Leaders are international students, so they have that proximity to the reality of what the international students that are incoming are going to experience.”
Jeffery said World Leaders are picked in January and go through training until they serve their primary role providing guidance to international students during the international student orientation. He calls this job a “lifetime commitment,” hoping that the students who take on the responsibility of working in the program understand the long-term peer connections being made in the process.
“And that’s what usually brings people in, with the interest is that they are generally interested in not only helping people, but they want to create a connection that spans more than even their UGA career,” Jeffery said.
Noor Khan, a UGA sophomore studying health promotion, is one of this year’s World Leaders. She said she learned about the program while working as an office assistant for ISL.
“Through ISL, I kind of seen how we interact with students and what kind of opportunities we give them,” Khan said. “I really liked and appreciated the kind of efforts [ISL] puts forward for international students.”
Khan also said as a World Leader, she hopes to be a guide for international students and to be there for them as a resource.
“You play an important role in their transition, from coming from a foreign country and having to adjust to, not just the United States life, [but] specifically Athens, Georgia,” Khan said. “You help them realize … they also belong here, they also have a role to play in this community.”
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