To ease the transition for incoming international graduate students, the Office of International Students and Scholars has organized, for the first time, programs that introduce life in the Elm City.

The OISS has planned four panels, scheduled to span four weeks, on topics that include resume building, Yale’s learning environment and dating in America. The first session, held this past Tuesday and attended by roughly 30 incoming graduate students, focused on typical first-year experiences for international graduate Yalies. Contrary to past orientations for international graduate students, which only included immigration information and a brief introduction to Yale, these four new panels offer a greater variety of student experience and advice, said Assistant Director for Programs at OISS Maria Gutierrez GRD ’16.

These programs were all created by orientation assistants, who are current international graduate students, based on their own time at Yale. Gutierrez said the assistants will be involved in all aspects of the orientation panels, from ice breakers to helping students file their taxes.

“Sometimes international students experience things differently than a faculty member would think we do,” orientation assistant Elizabeth Lang GRD ’16 said. Lang, who came from Canada, added, “we have different problems than what they might think so I’m hoping it could help the new students troubleshoot things in a new country.”

Kirkland Williams DIV ’16, who is originally from Jamaica and developed the first panel, said he designed the program based on his own experience because he had needed someone to explain the “nuts and bolts” of Yale during his first year. The six panelists discussed topics ranging from effective methods for balancing academic and social life to advice for dating in America.

“When adjusting to life at Yale and American culture, international students have to learn about the space on their own, through observation and inquiries, and it’s not so easy at times,” Williams said.

Andrew Shim GRD ’21 said many of the graduate orientation programs, in addition to the panels, were helpful and also allowed him to meet a variety of other graduate students. Jae Lee GRD ’21 agreed, but added that he would have liked to have a program centered around the topic of what current students would want to change about their first year.

Cristian Saavedra SPH ’16, a Chilean orientation assistant, said that adapting to the American class structure was one of the main challenges he faced during the beginning of his time at Yale. He said the hardest part was trying to improve his English so that he could get the most out of his classes.

“The idea behind all of these events is that we’ve been through these experiences, and we want to share our experiences right from the beginning,” said Huiyan Jin GRD ’17, an orientation assistant from China. “If the new incoming students have been exposed to these problems beforehand, they’re more likely to not panic.”