Recently, the Student Development and Enrollment Services Internationalization Committee sponsored their first International Student Panel during the spring semester. The committee is charged with enhancing the international campus-climate and services provided to UCF international students. Over 50 UCF community members attended the presentation. The panel was composed of dynamic students, representing four countries and study abroad experiences.

Jaime Morales, associate director Student Union, moderated the discussion and provided audience members with information regarding the challenges and resources that international students identify as essential to a meaningful UCF experience.

The panelists shared reasons why they selected UCF including the campus atmosphere, academics major, the DirectConnect program and athletic opportunities. Family support was identified as a valuable asset when transitioning to a new country and university. For example, one of the panelists described how having her mother with her in the United States has provided her with someone to talk to who understands the experiences she is going through. She could not stress enough how important it was to have support and encouragement.

In addition, panelists opened up about barriers they faced when coming to UCF. A reoccurring issue revolved around language barriers. Before beginning classes, students feel they are prepared and proficient in English because they had high TOEFL scores or completed the ESOL program, but being in the classroom was a completely new experience. Native speakers speak quickly and use colloquialisms. One student shared, “The professor jokes and everyone laughs, so I laugh, but, really, I don’t understand.” In addition to the spoken language, assignments and textbooks are also in English, which can cause assignments and reading to take significantly longer than they would for American students.

Furthermore, the panelist discussed barriers between different international groups. The students expressed that international students do not easily unite as a group, because of the variety of cultures they encompass. While there are organizations, such as the International Student Association, many international students silo together based on their country of origin.

The panelist provided great insight to the experiences of international students. The SDES Internationalization Committee will review strategies to address some of the barriers discussed and continue to work to improve UCF’s international student campus climate.