UWRF service helps international students adjust to campus, America

Posted October 7, 2015

International Student Services, located in Hagestad Hall on the UW-River Falls campus, helps international students deal with living and blending into American culture. The staff helps students’ transition from the initial culture shock that may strike them when coming into the country.

Currently 157 total international students attend UWRF, of whom 65 are new and 92 returning students.

Conan Kmiecik, International Student Services coordinator, is in charge of helping these students as well as handling immigration forms, visas, internships, and any other issues that may come up.

“The majority of the international students are from Brazil, South Korea, China and Japan,” Kmiecik said.

UWRF also has students from 18 other countries varying from South America to the Middle East.

International students are essentially studying abroad, much like students from UWRF do, and encounter some of the same problems that American students do.

Ichiko Mori, a Japanese student, is working on her bachelor’s degree and said that the language barrier was incredibly difficult to get past. She found it hard for people here to understand what she was trying to say.

“I was trying to tell someone what I wanted, but they didn’t understand and (it) was really hard,” Mori said.

Depending on the program that students are involved in, their home campus determines on how long they will spend at UWRF.

“Exchange students are here for either a semester, year, or even two years depending on their degree and program,” Kmiecik said.

International Student Services provides help and advice on what to do in everyday situations, like language, and getting involved on campus and in the community.

Although it doesn’t host very many events itself, International Student Services staff push students to get involved on campus. A number of international students participate in a wide variety of clubs and organizations on campus.

“I really like it here and I am glad that I did this,” said Mori, “I have made a lot of friends here.” Mori said that she is graduating in May and is planning on returning to her small village south of Okinawa, Japan.

In preparation to blend in with other students on campus, International Student Services hosts its own Week of Welcome just for these students.

“We have a shuttle that picks up the students from the airport and brings them to River Falls,” Kmiecik said.

International Student Services also provides a shuttle to the Mall of America so that the students can go shopping to get anything that they may need, as well as experiencing the mall itself.