Host Partner Feature: University of Southern Indiana

This month, World Learning is pleased to highlight a long-standing partner: the University of Southern Indiana! USI is currently home to five Global UGRAD students: Mohamed Lamine Chekor (Algeria), Daria Gordon (Russia), Valerian Mutua (Kenya), Pyae Thukha (Burma), and Edwin Daniel Ramirez Guzman (Guatemala). Please read on to learn all about USI’s program and Dr. Emi Zlatkovska, who is the executive director of the Center for International Programs at USI.

How long have you been working at USI? What is your role?

Dr. Emilija “Emi” Zlatkovska

My name is Dr. Emilija (Emi) Zlatkovska, executive director of the Center for International Programs and director of the Intensive English Program at the University of Southern Indiana. I have been with USI for 10 years. I was first hired by the university in 2013 and was tasked with developing the Intensive English Program as well as acquiring its accreditation with the Commission of English Language Program Accreditation (CEA). I transitioned into my current role in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does your orientation for international students involve?

At USI, we believe in a holistic approach to organizing the orientation that starts with admission. We stay in continuous communication with the students from the moment they are admitted until they arrive on campus, providing advice and reassurance along the way.

The Cone and University Center – the heart of the USI campus

Our orientation consists of two parts: one online prior to their departure for Indiana, and one in person upon their arrival to campus. When new students confirm they are coming to USI, we ask them to complete online modules to become familiar with the campus and the services that are available to them. We have an online pre-departure meeting with the students where we introduce ourselves and provide the opportunity for them to ask questions. Transportation from the local airport to the university campus is provided when students first arrive. Upon their arrival to campus, they are greeted by our student orientation assistants who assist them with settling in to their housing and answer any questions they may have. The student orientation assistants also engage new students in campus events and offer peer support.

The in-person orientation covers topics on immigration, the academic classroom, culture shock, employment in the United States, advising, and registering for classes, but the main goal is to help them adjust, connect with other students, and feel comfortable about their new home for the duration of their studies. In addition to the multiple information sessions, during Orientation Week our office provides a tour of the city and a fun scavenger hunt to help new students become familiar with various resources and buildings on campus.

Emi with Global UGRADs,  Pyae Thukha (middle) from Burma and Valerian Mutua (right) from Kenya at USI’s Food Expo event in February

We join forces with USI Welcome Week for all new students. It’s a great way to meet domestic students as well as students from around the globe. Welcome Week activities include fun large and small group events for all new students to get acquainted, foster a feeling of camaraderie, and learn strategies to adjust to college culture. The care continues with ongoing advising as we help students navigate adjusting to campus, culture, and classes. It is wonderful to welcome the students to our beautiful campus and enjoy the enthusiasm they bring with them!

Can you briefly describe a handful of campus clubs, events, and/or programs that are designed with international students in mind?

There are over 140 student clubs that students can join at USI. There are major-specific clubs, clubs for specific languages (Japanese Club, French Club, German Club, etc.), and clubs for personal interests like astronomy, journalism, engineering, art, dance, rock climbing, and more. The iClub is a fun group of international and domestic students with the goal of creating cultural awareness across campus. The iClub’s most popular event on campus is the International Food Expo which features cuisine and culture from around the world. Another popular event sponsored by the Center for International Programs is a monthly culture night series, featuring an educational presentation about a specific country and enjoying a popular dish. At all these events, the students serve as ambassadors of their cultures and educate our campus and the local community.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

The gazebo on Reflection Lake at USI

USI’s campus is absolutely gorgeous! From the walking trails to each individual building, it all feels so close and yet very distinct. My favorite place is the little gazebo by Reflection Lake where I can go for lunch, meet with a student, or enjoy the peace and quiet. I always feel reenergized and ready to continue with my day!

Please share a positive takeaway or memorable story from your work with Global UGRADs.

Reflection Lake, College of Liberal Arts, and Romain College of Business at USI

The impact of having the Global UGRADs at USI is tremendous and twofold. First of all, they contribute to the internationalization of our campus and community. They are very involved on campus in student organizations and events. It’s great to see their enthusiasm for learning and cultural exchange. I admire these students’ motivation and determination. They give their best in everything they do! They do cultural presentations about their country to the campus community, and I enjoy seeing the pride in their eyes while representing their country. It is even more enjoyable to see the other students, both domestic and other international, flocking to them after their presentation eager to learn more about their country. During their stay on our campus, they build and sustain relationships with students from all over the world that dispel stereotypes and foster mutual understanding.

Secondly, they also engage with the local community through volunteer activities at different organizations where they continue to educate others about their culture, but they also learn about the local culture and embrace the value of serving the community. This experience shapes their thinking towards building tolerance and world peace one student at a time. Overall, it is a great experience having Global UGRADs here at USI.