On September 14, 2023, Dr. Newin Orante, Acting President of Skyline College, invited six international students for an informational luncheon. Taking place in the President’s Office, the one-hour event was attended by Clair Yeo-Sugajski (Acting International Student Program Manager), Theresa Tentes (Executive Assistant to the President), and an esteemed diverse group of international students: Sebastian Sutjipto (Indonesia), Zwe Mann Kyaw (Myanmar), Mowen Tan (China), Maria Olivia De Almeida Barrence (Brazil), Cesar Quinto (Philippines), and Manuela Riveros Mora (Colombia).

Dr. Orante, Clair Yeo-Sugajski, and Theresa Tentes greeted the international students with warmth and enthusiasm as they entered the President’s Office. The luncheon commenced with an opening discussion about the students’ backgrounds and what they missed most from their home countries—for some, this semester marked their first or second year in the United States. At the same time, for Maria Olivia, it had been a remarkable five-year journey since her arrival. Some students also shared their challenges, such as the prohibitive cost of flights home or the unfavorable conditions in their home countries, as highlighted by Zwe.

A common sentiment among the students was missing their friends and family members dearly. The majority also concurred that they longed for the taste of home, as local restaurants could not quite replicate their favorite dishes. Sebastian mentioned a beloved Indonesian dish, “Nasi Padang,” which serves various dishes at your table without needing to order. Dr. Orante added to the conversation by mentioning a similar Filipino practice called “Kamayan.”

The dialogue evolved as Dr. Orante inquired about what Skyline College could do to ease the feeling of homesickness and create a more welcoming environment for international students. Cesar noted that while homesickness is natural, campus clubs have made him feel more at home. Dr. Orante, who had immigrated from the Philippines, empathized with the students’ stories. Many students mentioned the financial strain of tuition fees, emphasizing the importance of additional support services like SAM cards, transportation assistance, and technology access. They acknowledged the complexities of funding but stressed the need for improved promotion of accessible services, including the existing Health & Wellness Center and Learning Center. Furthermore, the students also requested that Skyline College staff be more culturally sensitive and understand their diverse backgrounds, particularly in terms of professors who should recognize that not everyone has the same high school or childhood cultural experience.

Dr. Orante shared his plan to bridge the gap between international and domestic students, fostering a platform where both groups can exchange experiences and challenges that may differ significantly. He proposed integrating the International Student Program’s events into the broader learning communities on campus and committed to working closely with the International Student Program (ISP) team to implement these suggestions effectively.

ISP is a part of the Global Learning Programs and Services Division. It will continue providing services and programs for international students and the Skyline College community. If you want to learn more about future ISP programs and events, contact the ISP office at skyinternational@smccd.edu.

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