January 11, 2018 9:15AM
After 21 hours of travel, Daeun Im of South Korea was among 21 people from six countries to touch down on an American Airlines flight and become the latest of 80 international students to enroll at Pittsburg State University this Spring.
They're a mix of degree-seeking undergraduate and graduates, short-term exchange students and Intensive English students.
"I came from Tokyo and then Dallas," Im said as she waited for baggage with the others at the carousel. "I am a little tired. But I heard this school is famous for education and I am excited to be here."
Im, along with students from Taiwan, France, Brazil, Paraguay, and China, were greeted by six student chauffeurs wearing crimson and gold and holding a large PSU banner; three of the drivers were once new international students themselves and wanted to be sure the group felt welcomed.
"I am a little nervous," admitted Irma Labille, who said she chose PSU for a marketing degree. "I hope to have a positive experience. I have heard positive things. But this is my first time."
Several smaller groups of international students have arrived at the airport in recent days, with student drivers shuttling them back and forth in PSU vans. They represent Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, China, Finland, France, India, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Palau, Paraguay, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Vietnam.
On Wednesday, they'll begin a four-day orientation as part of PSU's ongoing efforts to recruit and serve students from around the world.
"Orientation will cover such things as cultural adjustment, immigration regulations, academic integrity, presentations from various offices and departments, and student services," said Aaron Hurt, assistant director of International Programs and Services.
The orientation program is under the direction of Brenda Hawkins, but all hands are on deck in the Office of International Programs and Services to help the new students, from staff to International Advocates to student volunteers.
"The other big thing that our office assists with during these first days of arrival is helping the students get settled into on-campus housing or find off-campus housing. We will also be taking them to Walmart to shop for some basic household items," Hurt said.
His office will host a welcome dinner on Thursday. Enrollment will take place on Friday.
Off-campus, community members are once again gearing up to welcome the students as they do each semester. It takes a village, noted Cynthia Pfannanstiel, a retired special services librarian and professor who is a board member of the International Friends of Pittsburg.
The group is a longstanding organization of volunteers that strives to make international students feel welcome while at the same time giving community members the experience of getting to know other cultures.
"Many of the students have not been away from home before," she said. "Having a friend can ground them and make them feel included. Most of them come from very family-oriented cultures and they like having a special someone to call their family in Pittsburg."
On Saturday at 5:30 p.m., the group will host a large welcome dinner for new international students at St. John's Lutheran Church, 304 W. Third. Those who would like to become a friend to the students or contribute food or money toward the welcome dinner should contact Morgan McCune at 620-235-4895.
She's also seeking individuals and families for the Friendship Families program, which makes a connection between the new students and local residents, who then invite them to participate in family gatherings, special events, and enjoy ordinary activities together — from going on a hike to attending a basketball game or a play.
The feeling that the Pittsburg community is a welcoming one to international students wasn't lost on the new arrivals on Tuesday.
Vivian Serpa, of Brazil, who was among them, had experienced it once before just a few months ago.
"I came to Pittsburg with my parents in November to learn more about the area before I began my studies," she said as she prepared to load her luggage in the Pitt State van Tuesday afternoon. "Right away I liked it. There was a sense of community and I will be able to make a connection with other international students. I'll get many cultures for the price of one."