A warm welcome, Version 2.0

Fulbright logoLast summer’s maiden voyage of the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at NIU sailed to success.

Seventy foreign Fulbright student grantees spent three days in DeKalb acquiring skills necessary for successful academic and professional lives in the United States while they also learned more about their roles and responsibilities as Fulbrighters.

“It was really good last year. Everything just worked out well,” said Sim Chin Tissa, director of NIU’s International Student & Faculty Office. “We had excellent feedback and response from the participants. One student evaluation said, ‘We learned so many things … grabbing this opportunity to thank NIU staff. I will come to take a Ph.D. in positive organization there.’ ”

The overall positive feedback earned NIU a second consecutive invitation from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to host another orientation.

NIU will welcome 72 Fulbrighters to campus Tuesday, Aug. 9, for three busy days of presentations, workshops, break-out sessions, networking activities and uniquely Midwestern field trips.

Participants, including one who is enrolling at NIU for her master’s degree in public administration, will stay in the Holmes Student Center hotel.

Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman and NIU Graduate School Dean Brad Bond will deliver the official welcome Tuesday morning to open the orientation.

Vanessa Sayajon, program officer for the Foreign Fulbright Programs Division of the Institute of International Education, will oversee the week’s program.

NIU Fulbright Gateway Orientation 2015
NIU Fulbright Gateway Orientation 2015

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
  • volunteerism in the community.

Field trips are planned to NIU’s Communiversity Gardens, Millennium Park and Navy Pier. Participants also will enjoy a Chicago Architectural River Tour.

Other activities will help the Fulbright students connect, build a learning community and foster team spirit. The Tuesday night Welcome Dinner, for example, will feature music performed by NIU’s Quentin Dover and mingling with members of the Kishwaukee Sunrise Rotary Club.

Students also will take part in a discussion with second-year Fulbright foreign students who will talk about acclimating to U.S. graduate school.

Sim Chin Tissa
Sim Chin Tissa

Presenters include professors from three NIU colleges – Education; Health and Human Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences – as well as from Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance and Elgin Community College.

Tissa is excited for next week’s repeat performance.

“We have great team spirit at NIU, and we were inspired and invigorated by the program last year,” she said. “It’s really quite an honor to have the State Department invite NIU again, and given that we have done this before, we are trying to see how we can improve and make it better.”

NIU’s visitors will cap their orientation experience Thursday, Aug. 11, with a taste of America’s pastime – baseball – when they attend a twilight Kane County Cougars game in Geneva.

For Tissa and her staff, and just like last year, the farewell outing is not the end of busy times: Around 400 new international students arrive Monday, Aug. 15, at NIU for their own orientation.

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