Oberlin Blogs

International Orientation

August 27, 2009

Charles Grim

It's been a crazy week here on campus, but crazy in a good way. Our new crop of international students arrived late last week and began international orientation Saturday evening. Unlike domestic admissions where many or even most of our new students have visited Oberlin before, this is almost always the first time on campus for our new international students. That also means that this is the first time that we've met most of our new international students. So it has been a real thrill to meet everyone.

Saturday evening was the formal welcome dinner. But before we could welcome the 60-plus new international students and the parents who could make the trip, we had to get everyone to campus. Every year there seem to be a few missed connections, but this year seemed to set a new record. Katya Grim, our Director of International Student Services, wasn't far off the mark when her speech included the following "statistic": "0% of our new students arrived as scheduled." This made the pick-up logistics a nightmare but by 19:00 on Saturday almost everyone was here enjoying a delicious dinner and a few brief speeches.

It was an especially great privilege for me to meet with the parents and express our appreciation that they are entrusting us with their children for the next few years. As a parent who had dropped my daughter off at her college only hours before, I could really relate to what they were thinking.

Sunday was taken up in large part by various meetings and workshops designed to orient the students to Oberlin and the US, but that evening we held the annual international student welcome picnic. We invite any upperclass international students who happen to be around, the RAs, parents, a few faculty and staff members, and the new students and parents. The burgers were a bit overcooked in my opinion, but the conversations were delightful. We finished the evening with about two hours of karaoke. It was incredible to see how quickly the students had bonded. For most of the songs, there were so many students up front singing that there weren't any left in the audience.

Monday during the day was more international orientation, but we finished the evening with a bonfire on Tappan Square. The popular American bonfire treat s'mores didn't seem overly popular with our international students. Still, everyone seemed to have a good time - especially when they began creating and untying a human knot. Imagine about 25 people in a big bunch randomly grasping the hand of someone until everybody (but two) are holding hands with two other people. The two people with only one hand held are the ends of the string. Without letting go of anyone's hand you try to move around until you get everything untangled and into a big line. It was pretty fun to watch. It was nearly midnight by the time we got the fire put out and Katya and I got home. By the way, the recipe for s'mores is: roast a marshmallow on a stick over a fire until it is hot and golden brown. Then sandwich it and a piece of chocolate bar between two graham crackers.

Tuesday morning the US first-year students arrived and I spent an hour helping students cart their belongings into their rooms. It was a blast and I know that the families appreciated the help.

So just think a year from now, you could be eating s'mores, singing karaoke, having an admissions officer helping you move into your residence hall, and REALLY beginning to learn what it means to be part of this tightly-knit, academically-engaged campus community.

P.s. I have a few pictures that I'll try to upload one of these days.

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