In Depth: Ambassadors introduce international students to U

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

The International Center at the U is a two-way street — it both sends students to far-away countries and brings international students to campus.

Through the Ambassador Program at the U, students who have experience abroad, are globally conscious or have foreign language skills introduce incoming international students to the U’s campus and the wider Salt Lake Valley. Student ambassadors tell students studying abroad in Utah how to use local public transportation, what they can expect in American classrooms and which clubs and programs exist on campus that might interest them.

“It’s a peer mentor program that brings students who are globally minded with intercultural communication skills and skills in a foreign language together with students from abroad,” said Anjali Hammond, assistant director for outreach and development for the International Center. “The key is to have ambassadors who can be empathetic with incoming students and help them transition.”

The U has 50 to 60 students actively participating in the Ambassador program. These students introduce about 1,600 international students to life in Utah.

It begins with an e-mail. Ambassadors are paired off with international students. They tell the students what items and accessories to bring, what the weather is like and help answer any other questions the incoming students may have.

“I especially like to help people,” said Nobu Isono, a junior in economics and an ambassador in the program. “Some ambassadors help to organize camping trips, shopping outings and it’s a great way to meet new international students and learn a lot of stuff.”

Ambassadors such as Isono help students from abroad with scenarios like getting a cell phone, getting a U-card and finding local hangouts. Isono created a website for incoming Japanese students to find general information about the U and Utah. He also provides students with his personal e-mail address and contact information so they can find him whenever they may need help.

“After my sophomore year I became an ambassador, because when I first came to the U, I didn’t get a very good introduction,” Isono said.

In addition, Ambassadors introduce international students to resources around campus such as the writing center, tutoring labs, or the campus wellness center.

“Before coming to Utah, Nobu told me what to expect which was very helpful,” said Ayaka Fujita, a student from Japan. “Taking classes here is very difficult, but very interesting, especially in the classroom. In Japan, students are usually quiet in class, only taking notes. But here students are very engaged and asking questions,” Fujita said.

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The U ambassador program has 50 to 60 active participants who introduce about 1,600 international students to the U.