A warm welcome

Logo of the U.S. Department of StateNorthern Illinois University is proud to welcome a special group of 70 international Fulbright Foreign Students to campus this week for its first-ever Fulbright Gateway Orientation program.

This activity is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State as part of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world.

Administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the Fulbright Gateway Orientation Program is a benefit made available to Fulbright Foreign Student grantees arriving in the U.S.

The Gateway Orientation is intended to address two main components:

  • the participants’ roles and responsibilities as Fulbrighters; and
  • skill development for successful academic and professional lives in the U.S.

The Fulbright Gateway Orientation, which opens Tuesday, Aug. 11, and closes Thursday, Aug. 13, comprises three busy days of presentations, workshops, break-out sessions, networking activities and uniquely Midwestern field trips.

“We’re very excited about this. The participants are a diverse group from all around the world,” said Sim Chin Tissa, director of NIU’s International Student & Faculty Office. “We will give the students a really great experience that will help them start off their academic careers in the United States and its institutions.”

After receiving an invitation from IIE to submit a proposal to host a Fulbright Gateway Orientation at NIU last year, Tissa and her staff created a strong case for bringing one of the 10 orientation sites to DeKalb.

“We were confident we could do this because, when it comes to international students, that’s our forte. We have a very strong team here,” Tissa said. “Part of my office’s work here is to do orientation for international students every semester, and we do a heck of a good job. This is an area we are very familiar with. We have worked very hard over the past months to put together a robust and stimulating agenda for this Gateway event, which is a highly specialized orientation program.”

Topics for the three days include:

  • U.S. academic culture;
  • U.S. politics and people;
  • cross-cultural understanding and awareness of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality and more;
  • appropriate interpersonal relationships;
  • leadership skills; and
  • local community action.

Fulbright logoProvost Lisa Freeman and Brad Bond, dean of the NIU Graduate School, will deliver the official welcome Tuesday morning to open the orientation and talk about NIU’s global engagement. NIU President Doug Baker will interact with these scholars over a meet-and-mingle break the following day.

Representing the Institute of International Education is Nina Hasenstein, senior program officer of the Enrichment Fulbright Foreign Programs Division, and Jenny Skiba, program officer of Fulbright Foreign Student Services. A representative from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is expected to attend as well.

Field trips are planned to the Naper Settlement and River Walk in suburban Naperville and the DeKalb Farmers’ Market. Other activities will help the Fulbright students connect, build a learning community and foster team spirit.

Presenters from NIU include professors from four colleges – Business; Education; Health and Human Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences – as well as from Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and Human Resource Services.

Dan Kenney will give a presentation about the DeKalb County Community Gardens’ approach to end hunger and food insecurity in DeKalb County.

“We have the expertise here, and we found the most appropriate people we could to run these sessions,” Tissa said. “Everybody’s excited about this program, and that’s what’s making it more exciting.”

Their experience ends Thursday evening with a farewell dinner and dance at Hopkins Park.

For Tissa and her staff, however, the work will not end next week. NIU’s new international students – about 300 in number – arrive Monday, Aug. 17, for their own orientation.

For more information on the Fulbright Program, call (202) 632-6452 or email ECA-Press@state.gov.

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