What Inspired Me
As an international student who struggles with feeling included on campus, I decided to work with the BYU-Idaho International Office to promote cultural awareness and help bridge the existing gap. Many international students I have interviewed feel disconnected from other populations on campus. I have seen myself and other international students distance themselves from enjoying the whole package of being students at BYU-Idaho mostly because they do not feel they belong. I wanted to do a project that will encourage international students to step up and show themselves while reminding the International Office that these students are trying to find where they belong. I also wanted my project to create a platform that will educate students on campus about the diverse culture and differences in BYU-Idaho.
My Project Focus
My goal was to use social media posts, student spotlights, and a planned event to encourage embracing the cultural differences on campus.
I divided my project into three main focuses. The first was interviewing international students from different regions and writing a short bio to display on the TV screens in the BYU-I Manwaring Center and anywhere else on campus. The purpose is to help other students recognize the diversity on campus and for international students to feel recognized.
The second part of my project was creating social media posts for the International Office. I researched campus resources and created an Instagram post for it. Based on my interviews, I realized that many international students are not aware of the campus resources available. The post was to help both freshmen and older students discover these resources. I also highlighted international students on Instagram each week.
The third part of my project was planning and executing a Rep Your Culture Day event on campus. As part of the cultural week, the International Office wanted to do something to prepare students for the cultural night. They suggested we do a fashion show, and my job was to bring it to life. For me, the fashion show was beyond an event to promote the cultural night; it was an opportunity to involve more international students in a showcase that would make them feel included. I organized an event that educated other students about different cultures. I started by distributing a signup survey on Qualtrics for students to register for the fashion show. After that, I invited students from different regions to give a presentation about their countries and culture.
Finally, to show more support to other international students, I created a spreadsheet suggesting companies in the U.S that accept Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). The CPT and OPT are work authorizations that permit international students to do internships or work in the U.S. after graduation. Through many interviews and conversations, I noticed that some international students struggle with getting an internship or finding a job after graduation because of work restrictions. I am hoping the spreadsheet will give them a place to start as they seek to pursue their career goals in any company of their choice.
Most students I interacted with loved the opportunity they had to showcase and talk about their home country. I believe the school can do better in promoting activities, events, seminars, or clubs that would help international students feel they have a space at BYU-Idaho. These events or activities would even help educate more students about different cultures and expectations. As more students learn about each other’s cultural differences, they would see the beauty in working together to build love and unity. Professors and faculty can also learn to create a welcoming environment for international students.