Megan Richard, coordinator for Middle Tennessee State University‘s International Student and Scholar Services, along with staff at the Office of International Affairs, wanted to update the International Ambassadors program to make it more impactful and meaningful for the roughly 400 students attending MTSU from other countries.
“We changed the name from ‘International Ambassadors’ to the ‘International Student Council‘ to reflect a greater member responsibility and accountability,” Richard said of her efforts with Cindy Habara, director of International Student and Scholar Services.
“The goal for the council is to act as mentors to new incoming international students, to participate in events and activities and to help promote awareness of resources available to students.”
In preparation for the council’s rollout last semester, Richard and Habara employed a more rigorous screening process: those interested in joining now had to complete an application and interview.
“Most of the council members talked about how they wanted to be the friend and guide to new students and provide the kind of support they wish they would have had as new international students,” Richard said. “They all really had that desire to serve other students and welcome them to campus.”
Staffers also assigned each member a group of mentees to help ensure all new members of the university’s international student community had support.
“It can be a hard thing to come to school and make friends, especially as an international student who is so far from home and everything they know, and we wanted to make sure the council addresses that,” said Richard, a Provo, Utah, native. “Members have been a really an incredible group of students who are bringing together this community to create friendships and share support with each other.”
Richard said applications for membership on next year’s council will go out next month. Those interested can contact her at Megan.Richard@mtsu.edu.
“We encourage anyone interested to apply,” she said. “And for all students, whether international or domestic, we encourage them to join our activities and events so they can have another place to meet new people.”
Graduate members share their wisdom
Richard said the graduate students on the council have also been a great asset.
“They offer a perspective on balance, forethought and hard work in getting an education and how that education will benefit them in the long term,” Richard said. “Because they have been through more school than the undergraduates, they really understand what they need to succeed and move forward to where they want to be.”
Member Pavel Motl, a graduate student in the Leisure, Sport and Tourism Management Program and an expat from Prštice, Czech Republic, values helping other international students acclimate to the U.S.
“My role is to mentor new international students during their first semester,” Motl said. “I enjoy being around people from different countries, to learn about their culture, traditions or languages, and I understand the obstacles these students face during their first weeks on campus — dealing with a foreign language, hesitating with meeting new people, being away from family and more.”
Motl said the council and his graduate program also have given him the opportunity to further integrate into the MTSU community.
“My graduate program is a small cohort of around 10 to 15 students, so it is easier to get to know each other and have meaningful, in-depth conversations in class,” Motl said. “I was (also) a tennis student-athlete, so I spent a lot of time with my teammates and getting to know them.”
Find a calendar of International Students and Scholar Services’ upcoming events at www.mtsu.edu/intered/intered_events_activities.php.
Learn more about the Leisure, Sport and Tourism Management master’s degree program at www.mtsu.edu/programs/leisure-sports-management-ms.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)
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