Putting the I in O-Week


Nina Chihambakwe, ’07, still remembers her own Chicago orientation. She scheduled her 27-hour flight from Zimbabwe, with stops at Amsterdam, Capetown, and Detroit, to arrive on Saturday, the first day of O-Week. Because of bad weather, she missed a connecting flight and arrived on campus a day late, missing registration for placement tests. To top it off, “all my luggage got lost,” she recalls. “I didn’t get [my bags] for another week and a half.” Disoriented and homesick, “I was jetlagged all of O-Week,” she says. “I didn’t take anything in.”

That’s why Chihambakwe opted to help with the College’s first international student pre-orientation, an optional $140 program that took place last Wednesday through Friday. The program included events such as a bus tour of Hyde Park; a lecture on plagiarism by political-science professor Charles Lipson from his book, Doing Honest Work in College; dinner and an ImprovOlympic performance downtown; and a shopping excursion to Target. The students also received a goody bag and an international student directory. Two paid graduate student assistants, four undergraduate volunteers, and 42 of this year’s 91 international students stayed in the Stony Island residence hall for three days before they moved into their permanent residence halls on Saturday. “I haven’t studied in the U.S. before,” says Frances Tong of Hong Kong, who spent 16 hours on a plane to get to Chicago. “I thought [the program] would help me to know a bit more about education in the United States, to know what social life is like.”

“We got a great response, and we’re really delighted,” says College adviser Barbara Miner, who conceived the program “based on focus groups we’ve held for the last two years with international students.” Miner hopes to continue the program with quarterly events: possibilities include coffee hours with faculty and staff or “American” outings to a baseball game, dinner, the theater, or a bowling alley. As for the pre-orientation, she says, “it’s going to be a really important part of orientation” from now on.

—Hana Yoo, ’07

Photos: A welcome sign greets international students (top). Taking time to pose for the photographer (bottom).

September 19, 2005