The new International Student Center (ISC) is aimed to be a physical space which facilitates and meets needs of international students which are not met solely by International Students Support Office (ISSO), Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), international Student Association (ISA) and other pre-existing resources on campus.
“These pre-existing structures focused a great deal on academic, legal, and even social aspects; however, aspects such as cultural assimilation, inclusion, and political activism were under-addressed, and a need for that drove the plan,” said co-founder of the ISC Evan Moon ‘21.
Shoaib Shamsi ‘21, who acts as the ISC Affinity Group Liaison, also notes that a lot of the academic and legal support for international students comes from students sharing resources with each other. “The international student community is not a very prominent part of the social spectrum at Haverford as the resources are limited to these offices. A lot of my support with regards to paper work and financials came through the international student social community. Our aim is to bridge this social void,”said Shamsi.
Adding to this, Tanisha Bansal ‘21, the other co-founder of the ISC said, “It is often intimidating to go to designated offices to speak about academic or personal concerns, and people may be more comfortable to talk in this space. We aim to be there as a resource for international students to reach out to and serve as the bridge between students and administration.”
Bansal continued, “This was Evan and my idea at an OMA meeting in September ‘18. Thereafter, we met with various offices – Student Life Office, Student Council, International Student Support Office and the OMA. We finally got the green flag for this in December.”
After receiving approval for the ISC, the co-heads held a session with the international students body where they discussed their initiatives and got the international community’s opinions. Soon, they were putting together a board of diverse and driven students. The ISC Board now consists of Tanisha Bansal ‘21 and Evan Moon’ 21 as Co-Heads, Nuria Benitez ’22 as Historian, Kimberly Aguero Martins ’22 as the ISSO Liaison, Saket Sekhsaria ’20 as the Publicity Coordinator, Shoaib Shamsi ’21 as Affinity Group Liaison and ISA liaison, and Noorie Chowdhury ’21 as Treasurer.
The OMA, SLO, and Student Council all were eager to help and to learn more about the international community’s experiences at Haverford. As far as logistics were concerned, the initiative coincided with the Student Council and SLO’s initiative to renovate spaces for student bodies and clubs through the facilities fund, an annual allocation fund for renovating spaces on campus.
The ISC had been working on this project enthusiastically so as to get the physical space for the center up and running for post summer. Apartment 22 basement has been renovated, and is ready for the upcoming ISC over the summer. “We are yet to figure out the funding for the furniture, set up artwork, and stuff. We want people to feel free to make what they want out of the space” said Bansal. They aim to get it set up before pre-customs for the incoming class of 2023 in order to make international students aware of it during the International Students Orientation (ISO).
Next steps include sending out regular updates on widely used social media platforms to make sure people are aware of this resource. Additionally, the board plans on holding office hours, to make sure there is always someone people could reach out to. Upon asking what discussions are high on their priority, the mention of a discussion on “who we are” came up, which the board plans on holding on the 7th of May from 5-6pm in the MCC. The event is open to self-identifying international students, and would entail defining the international student body, something pertinent after the discussion regarding the same at the 2019 Spring Plenary.
“We aim to create a community of support and activism for people facing issues of identity shifts, inclusion, exclusion, so that they can open up and communicate,” said Moon.