This month, World Learning is excited to feature the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), which is located in San Antonio, Texas. This fall semester UIW hosts three Global UGRAD students: Annisa Fissilmi (Indonesia), Dana Osaily (Palestinian Territories), and Seda Grigoryan (Armenia). Amy DeStefano, the Director of International Admissions and Recruiting, plays a key role in welcoming Global UGRAD students to campus and providing a safe and nurturing environment for their semesters in the United States. Read on to learn more about UIW and its international initiatives!
How long have you been working at UIW and what is your role?
I’ve been at UIW for 14.5 years building the International Admissions office. My current role is Director, International Admissions & Recruiting.
What does your orientation for international students involve?
The International Student Office hosts a 7 – 10-day arrival week and orientation. Our staff, along with amazing student assistants, provide airport pickup to all incoming international students living on campus, shopping shuttles, assistance with opening bank accounts, a city tour, social events, and pre-arrival virtual sessions. Temporary accommodations are also provided on campus until dorm check-in and supplies are available, so students have a place to rest upon arrival.
What is one of your favorite events or activities your campus hosts for international students?
Our Spring Festival occurs around Holi every year. The day consists of painting rangoli around campus sidewalks, an international bazaar, a fashion show, a history of Holi, and color throwing. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the diversity on campus and is a much sought-after event for our domestic students as well.
What makes UIW unique and what is your favorite place on campus?
With over 70 countries represented in a given semester, we try to bring as much of the world as possible to our campus to expose our domestic students to cultures they may otherwise never encounter. The commitment to service, giving back to those in need, and standing up for social justice and humanitarian efforts make me proud to work at UIW. You see the impact of the mission and diversity across campus on a daily basis. The community garden and gathering areas under our 200+ old oak trees are probably my favorite spots on campus.
What has been the impact of Global UGRAD students at your university?
UIW has been a Global UGRAD host institution for 11 years now! I still remember our very first student, Jimmy Alvarado from El Salvador who was studying Communications. I was so excited to welcome Jimmy to campus and knew from day one that the semester was going to be a life-changing opportunity for him. Global UGRAD students bring diversity to our campus, as most semesters they are the only students from their countries. They also bring an excitement to learn about other systems and cultures, and they take full advantage of their time here. They are very humble and desire to be empowered by an effort they are passionate about.
What advice would you give to an incoming Global UGRAD student?
Remember to breathe, take things one day at a time, and try new things! Many of the Global UGRAD Program requirements are a part of day-to-day life at UIW. Ample opportunities for cultural exchange, Global UGRAD passport photos, community service, and professional development exist. Keep your head up and your program requirements can be met with ease.