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August 2009

Settling in

In just a few days, the residence halls will be transformed. Hallways will be clogged with futons and mini refrigerators. Parents will lug in box after box. Students will greet old friends or meet the stranger sharing their room for the next year.

Added into the mix will be international students from 23 countries and 53 partner universities. This year's 133 exchange students — the largest group ever — have more adjustments than the average freshman.

“We take good care of them,” says Nell Pynes, interim associate provost of international programs. Their concerns range from needing help setting up bank accounts to understanding that it's OK, wonderful even, that police officers are on campus.

And while they won't have parents to help them get settled, they do have help from another quarter — volunteers from the UNCG Alumni Association Board of Directors. As students began arriving Aug. 16-17, volunteers met them at the airport — standing at the arrival gate with welcoming signs and helping them with their baggage. “It's one of the most rewarding things we do,” Pynes says, noting that she's talked to some students 15 years later and they still bring up how welcome it made them feel. “They'll remember that forever.”

Then, on Aug. 18, more volunteers will act as shopping advisors, something more important than many might realize. “Think about it…if you were visiting this country for the first time, would you know what an extra long twin bed sheet is?” asks Linda Carter, Alumni Association executive director.

After the shopping excursion, the International Programs Center sponsors the American Lawn Party from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on the I-House Lawn. Board members will use this last opportunity to meet students and make them feel right at home.

Taking good care of these students is hopefully reciprocated by our partner universities in 40 other countries.

It's a win-win for all involved. Our students get an opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture for the same cost as a semester at UNCG. And sometimes the travel is covered by outside support. Last year, during summer, fall and spring, 230 students received travel grants totaling $187,550. Additionally, 16 study abroad students received $71,500 in outside scholarship money to support study abroad.

For the students who stay in Greensboro, they get the benefit of learning about different cultures right here at home.

“It's a way to internationalize our campus,” Pynes says.




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