International students push for counselors

The International Students Organization and the Office of International Students and Scholars have agreed to start an international counselor program to help fill the needs of international students.

ISO President Mansoor Razzaq ’03 and several other students met yesterday with the OISS Director Ann Kuhlman, and came up with a plan for a pilot program.

“There’s going to be one [counselor] per college, selected through rising juniors and seniors,” Razzaq said. “There’s going to be a head counselor, and that person is going to be the one coordinating with the rest of the freshman counselors and Dean [of Student Affairs Betty] Trachtenberg. They are going to be trained, if not with freshman counselors, then in the first couple weeks of school.”

Razzaq said the counselors will be peer advisers and will not live in the freshman dorms. The OISS will handle the application process and allocate money for activities like study breaks, he said. He also said he will discuss this plan with Trachtenberg as soon as possible.

Razzaq said international students need trained counselors to help them understand issues that are involved in acclimating to American culture — issues in which freshman and ethnic counselors are often not well-versed.

The ISO conducted an informal e-mail survey and called a town meeting April 9 to gather opinions from various international students. Several students also attended the ethnic counselor town meeting last week to discuss their concerns with the wider community, Razzaq said.

Assad Ahmad ’04 said a counselor program would be especially beneficial for students who come from countries that are not well represented at Yale. He noted for example, that there is a large Turkish community, so those students feel like they have more of a support system, but some countries only have one or two students at Yale.

Several international students have already met with Trachtenberg to discuss the issue, and Trachtenberg said she was willing to look into the issue further.

“”This is something we have to take seriously,” Trachtenberg said. “We’ll try to work with them to make life easier for students coming from foreign countries.”

Kuhlman said she thinks it is important to have a peer adviser for international students because there are some issues that students do not feel comfortable discussing with administrators.

“[It’s] good to go to a student who understands the situation you’re in, either because they’re sensitive to those issues or because they’ve had the experience themselves,” Kuhlman said. “I think they’ve identified a need and are looking for creative and appropriate ways to address that need, and I think it’s an important conversation to have.”

The general consensus at the April 9 meeting seemed to be that the ethnic counselor program was of little use to international students because their needs differ from those of American minority students. Several students also noted that there is a common experience among international students regarding issues such as obtaining visas and staying at Yale during Thanksgiving.

“I would feel much more comfortable with any international student than my ethnic counselor who is Southeast Asian-American,” said Taimur Hassan ’04, who is from Pakistan.

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