“Columbia, “Hong Kong, “Sweden, “Vietnam, the role call goes around the room and across the globe. It’s an early morning in the Office of Intercultural Affairs and Chevy DeVaney ’95 is standing in the middle of an anxious group of international students and collecting a thick and multi-colored stack of passports.
It’s Wednesday, Aug. 22, a few days before Orientation begins in earnest but DeVaney, who serves as assistant director of ICA and international student advisor, has her work cut out for her. “I need to see your faces, she says, “I want to know that you’re here and that you’re doing OK.
Some of this group has already been on campus a few days, settling in with sports teams or unpacking for a semester abroad, others have only arrived in the last 24 hours – jetlag and excitement playing out across their faces. For some it’s their first time in the country, others have lived in the U.S. before, but for all of them DeVaney serves as a resource and life-line, helping each student accomplish his or her goals.
“The most important part is getting everyone to communicate, she says. “We need to know when they’re overwhelmed, when they get homesick – the problems are generally the same as any other students and we can help them by building supportive relationships.
While a tour group queues up outside – giving many of the students their first in-depth look at the HWS campus – inside the kitchen of ICA DeVaney is answering a flurry of questions. Three students, Daniel Gustafsson ’11 and Gad Amkell-Landren ’11 from Sweden, and Daniel Vallejo ’11 from Columbia inquire about topics ranging from U.S. immigration policy and visa regulations to buying textbooks and finding the Registrar’s Office.
“They’ve done a really good job of integrating us, says Vallejo, who seems to be keeping a mental list that’s already running several pages. “I’m really looking forward to studying economics here.
Intercultural Affairs offers a bedrock of support for student studying abroad, but DeVaney is quick to credit the pool of upperclassmen. “The current international students can’t get enough credit for their role as mentors to incoming groups, DeVaney said, “probably the most important thing we do is try and build student-to-student relationships. It’s a goal ICA accomplishes through field-trips, outings, special events and the powerful adhesive that comes with overcoming challenges and conquering obstacles – together, as a group.
Later that evening, the sweatshirts have been traded for jackets and sweaters and the President’s House opens its doors to welcome students from around the world. “You will add to our campus and our classrooms in important ways, said President Mark D. Gearan, speaking to the group in his living room, “we look forward to building bonds of friendship and creating a sense of community you can draw on.
As the day came to a close, Gustafsson settled in on the Gearan’s porch and passed the time discussing soccer with a circle of new friends and acquaintances. Here, in the growing twilight the work of Intercultural Affairs takes on a new and even more personal dimension. “It’s been great to meet such helpful staff, Gustafsson says, “I feel quite at home already.