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Sarah Wagoner, NAA Senior Associate Director of Alumni Engagement, presents at the One World/One Northwestern luncheon in April.

One World \ One Northwestern community learns about the life cycle of an international student at Northwestern

At Northwestern, international students comprise roughly 23 percent of the total student population in full-time academic programs. 

Hailing from over 106 countries around the world, international students bring a diverse perspective to the cultural and academic discussion on campus. To help them adjust, learn and grow, a wide range of departments and offices are committed to providing them with opportunities and resources to succeed at Northwestern and beyond.

On March 20, the Office of the Vice President for International Relations convened three such offices to share the work they have done with international students and foster an environment for idea sharing on best practices.

Representatives from Northwestern's Office of Undergraduate Admission, Office of International Student and Scholar Services and Alumni Relations and Development shared insights into international student recruitment, on-campus support, and global alumni engagement. 

About 70 staff members from the international education community at Northwestern were in attendance to learn the ins and outs of the international student's life cycle — in other words, before, during and after their time at Northwestern.

Before: Recruiting and Admissions  

Recruiting international students is an integral part of the goal of Northwestern's Office of Undergraduate Admission. To be successful, global recruitment involves traveling to other countries to meet with prospective students. According to Aaron Zdawczyk, Associate Director of Admission and Director of International Recruitment, in 2018, undergraduate admission staff visited more than 40 countries, compared to only five countries in 2008. 

They visit high schools and work closely with recruitment partners like Fundação Estudar in Brazil, Bridge2Rwanda, Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project (KENSAP) and local EducationUSA offices to share the opportunities available at Northwestern.

"We don't want to just talk about the university and tell them that we are a great option. We visit to learn about their schools and their best students," said Zdawczyk. "There has been an amazing growth in diversity at Northwestern in the past 10 years. It is exciting to think about continued growth and where we are headed."

Since 2009, the number of citizenships represented by undergraduate students grew from 51 to 83. 

During: International Student Resources and Programming

Once international students confirm their attendance and are officially enrolled, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS), formerly known as the International Office, becomes their primary contact. 

OISS provides extensive pre-arrival assistance, from guidance with the visa process to hosting pre-departure orientations in China, India and Korea.

Once in the U.S., OISS offers students major support initiatives, including airport pick-ups, on-campus orientations, continuous visa support, group advising, linkage to campus resources and assistance with cultural and campus adjustment.

The office also provides guidance on personal finance through workshops on managing finances in the U.S. and on balancing part-time and full-time work opportunities with academics. They also have resources to assist students in the case of unexpected short-term financial situations.

"We leverage campus resources and offer assistance for a wide variety of emergencies and unexpected circumstances," said Taya Carothers, Assistant Director of Advising Services, who spoke on behalf of the OISS. "International students can apply for emergency funds up to a certain amount. Unexpected situations come up, and we want to make sure that we can help them."

After: Global Alumni Engagement 

After graduation, the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) provides a way for international students and domestic students moving abroad to stay connected to Northwestern.

With 17 alumni clubs and 53 Global Alumni Ambassadors across 41 countries outside the U.S., the NAA helps foster a mutually beneficial relationship between the university and its alumni through diverse engagement opportunities worldwide.

To that end, the Association runs a gamut of programs to keep alumni connected to Northwestern, including a student-alumni mentorship network, annual international student receptions and gatherings for new members of international clubs. It also hosts various alumni events around the globe, including its signature event, Northwestern Connects.

"Northwestern Connects is our primary global alumni engagement event," said Sarah Wagoner, NAA Senior Associate Director of Global Engagement. Held annually in January, Northwestern Connects consists of a series of alumni networking events held on the same day around the world.  

"Alumni of all Northwestern schools are represented, and events range from small gatherings of less than 10 people to events with over 150," Wagoner said.

The event, launched in 2015 with 39 gatherings worldwide, saw 96 locations participate in 2019.

“This overview of the support these three offices provide will help staff better understand the resources international students have available to them,” said Kim Rapp, Assistant Vice President for International Relations, who leads the One World \ One Northwestern initiative. “In addition to showcasing the strength and diversity of our international student body, this event also highlighted the care and skill with which Northwestern’s admissions officers, OISS, and alumni teams welcome and integrate international students into the Northwestern community.”