The NMU College of Business has teamed up with the International Programs Office to create a program to help international students adjust to the environment of the U.S. school system. The program began this semester with a group format, but next semester, the program will pair international business students with NMU business students.
Rehema Clarken, international programs specialist at NMU, said one of the problems with studying abroad is that schools are formatted differently around the world. Much of the time, schools abroad follow the British education system, which is different from the American education system, or follow completely different formats, Clarken said. It helps to have someone who knows NMU to help international students with understanding how the school works. The buddy program has been created for that purpose.
“Everything from how we have club activities, to how we register for classes, to talking with your professors to get questions answered … are really different in different cultures,” Clarken said. “It’s really helpful if international students are meshed with domestic students – American students – who maybe have more experience in the business program than they (do).”
Clarken said NMU has resisted calling the program a “mentor” program, because it suggests an unequal division of power between pairs. Clarken said it also suggests learning only occurs with one member of the pair, which is misleading.
“The American student is learning a lot about other cultures and learning about the business practices of other places, and the international student is learning a lot about how to be a successful student here in America,” Clarken said. “They have a lot to give each other; it’s not just one way.”
The program is not a tutoring program, though business students interact with international business students, Clarken said.
“(Northern students) might give recommendations about what certain professors think is more important, but more of it, I think, is more social. Just showing them the ropes of getting around campus and introducing them to different business clubs they can be a part of helps, and they do other things like go out to eat or play games and watch a movie together,” Clarken said. “It depends on the group that forms.”
Next semester, the program will pair students from abroad with NMU students to give a more personal experience. Irene Klassen, business law major from Bielefield, Germany, said the program will improve greatly with a buddy system rather than the current group format, to help with the initial move to NMU.
“Every international student needs someone, especially in the beginning, who shows him or her everything to get to know the university, the city, where to go shopping, and what to do in different situations,” Klassen said. “A buddy program will improve it a lot.”
Christian Clausjürgens, international studies in management major, also from Bielefield, disagreed. He said there would be advantages and disadvantages to a buddy program. If buddies are open-minded and “on good terms,” they should be OK, he said.
Clausjürgens said he expects to gain much from studying abroad, mainly life experience.
“Studying abroad is not only studying in a different language, it is also ‘living’ another language, another lifestyle, another culture,” Clausjürgens said. “Thinking about this actually makes me sad that only a few people in the world get the opportunity to live a different life for a while, and it also keeps me sad that this might be the only chance for me living that kind of life.”
Next semester, the program will call for students to apply to participate in the buddy program, Clarken said. To apply, contact Clarken or Carol Steinhaus, associate professor of management in the College of Business.