A Cultural Exchange in UC’s Dorms

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International students gather in Strebel for an event. Photo by Maria M. Silva.

Maria M. Silva, Spec. Assignment Reporter

Utica College is now home to more than 5,000 students from 45 different states and 39 countries.

But with such a diverse campus, most international students can be found in one residence hall: Tower Hall, also known as the Global Village, a selection that intrigues many students on campus.

In the past, incoming international students used to be placed in a floor in Boehlert Hall, but because of the popularity of the Global Village program, it was moved to Tower Hall.

The Global Village community was created “to include returning international students as well as U.S. students who have an interest in learning more about global perspectives and cultures while also enjoying helping others,” said Assistant Director for Student Living Marissa Finch.

Finch’s role involves overseeing the housing selection process for all new and returning students, as well as supervising the area coordinators and all of the educational initiatives on campus, which includes the Global Village.

The Global Village serves a specific goal: to welcome new and returning internationals as well as U.S. students “who have an interest in learning more about global perspectives and cultures, while also enjoying helping others,” Finch said.

The community focuses on, especially, helping new international students adjust to their new life away from their home countries and work as a “support system” for them during this new time, according to Finch.

What makes the Global Village different is that the community, including the RAs and the events that they organize, works toward building an inclusive environment while also promoting a cultural exchange, Finch added. She has received many applications from domestic students who are interested in living in the Global Village.

When placing incoming international exchange students who study on campus for a semester or a year, Area Coordinator Lauren Waszkiewicz said “we have found that providing a community for [internationals] that includes American and other [students] from around the world can be a really welcoming space.”

As an area coordinator, Waszkiewicz manages Bell, Tower and Alumni halls and works with many students from different backgrounds.

Some new students will opt to participate on MooseMatch, an activity which helps them find a roommate before arriving. However, Waszkiewicz said that sometimes international students may not be able to participate “or we don’t have confirmation months prior on who will be arriving,” so placing them in the Global Village is a safe bet to make sure those new students will find a welcoming space.

“Through the Global Village community, we know that we are placing these students in a room where at least one roommate has signed up to live in a multi-cultural space which values diversity, a global perspective and helping the international student get accustomed to campus and the U.S.,” Waszkiewicz said.

International students are free to live in any of the school’s residence halls after their sophomore year. However, Waszkiewicz said many will return to live in the Global Village because they are more familiar with it.

The housing system is the same for international students and domestic students, by using the point system.

“However, the Special Housing Application, for all returning international and domestic students wishing to live in the Global Village, reviews applicants and places students selected for the program outside the traditional housing process,” Waszkiewicz  said. “If selected for the Global Village, [students] do not need to follow the housing process according to their points and are instead placed manually into their rooms.”

When it comes to becoming a RA in the Global Village, not every application is accepted. Instead, Marissa Finch said the Office of Student Living works closely to “identify RAs who have either studied abroad, spent time abroad traveling or with family or who were born in a different country so they can relate on some level to new international students,” Finch said.

As a RA in Tower Hall for two semesters already, Sophomore Victoria Lukashevich was very interested in the Global Village theme.

“I have always loved learning about other cultures, so in high school I was involved in the International Club and coordinated events for my community to learn about other cultures, so I think that was the biggest influence in choosing Tower Hall,” Lukashevich said.

Interacting with people from different countries and backgrounds and helping them adjust to the life in the U.S. creates a sense of involvement that Lukashevich enjoys.

“It is very interesting to see the similarities and differences between cultures,” she said.

One of the downsides that Lukashevich had encountered as an RA in Tower Hall were disagreements stemming from cultural differences.

“In cases I have heard of, sometimes people do not like the smell of certain foods that international students make, but for the most part it’s just amazing to see the blend of people and cultures,” Lukashevich stated.

Housing international students in the same building helps them share a common experience in adjusting to a new country and culture, the RA said.

However, Lukashevich said that by placing them together, those internationals might be missing out on learning about the “real American experience” and may not be able to promote a cultural exchange with other American students.


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