Westmont students from across the globe
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First-year Rebekah Wong arrived at Westmont just a few days after leaving her home in Singapore. The first-year is one of the several international students new to Westmont this fall.
In addition to the eight international students, many other new Westmont students spent a significant portion of their lives outside the U.S. These international students, missionary kids (MKs) and third culture kids (TCKs) represent a diverse array of countries from Argentina to Germany to Jordan. Across all classes, 43 MK, TCK and international students attend Westmont.
“As a Christian college, we see it as our mission to be a community of scholars and learners that is more representative of God's creation, reflective of a global church and preparing graduates to be globally engaged citizens,” international student advisor, Linnie Avila, and dean of admissions, Silvio Vazquez said in an email to the Horizon.
Wong said she found her transition to studying in the U.S. relatively easy. She already had a small community of friends at the college: Her cousin, second-year Rachel Wong, also attends the college, along with two of their childhood friends from Singapore.
For many students, though, starting college in an unfamiliar country presents challenges.
“Until you have experienced a major cross-cultural transition, you don't know how hard it can be,” said Daniel Kohl, a second-year transfer and MK from Jordan. “The transition to life in America can often feel isolating to TCKs, international students and MKs.”
However, students report they have received a warm welcome from peers and professors.
The college also takes many steps to greet international students and provide support. Wong, Kohl and their fellow international students moved in four days before freshman orientation for a special international student orientation. The students enjoyed various workshops, toured Santa Barbara, and spent time with each other, as well as faculty.
“I definitely enjoyed the international student orientation,” said Jan Sibbel, a first-year from Germany. “The ISO staff and the ambassadors really took care of me and soon made me feel comfortable in that new environment.”
She has also opened the group to other Westmont students and hopes students will build community and develop a global perspective.
Jason Cha, director of intercultural programs, also advises students to spend time with those from different backgrounds—whether national, ethnic, or socioeconomic.
“In college, it’s about expanding your bubble, expanding your horizons and meeting people from different walks of life,” Cha said.
Kohl encouraged U.S. natives to get to know international students and make them feel at home. “Reach out to them… There is a lot that you can learn from them, and there is a lot that they can learn from hearing your story.”