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Club Helps international Students Settle into American Life, Chiropractic College

NOVEMBER 16, 2001 -  Imagine moving from a metropolitan area in Pennsylvania or New Jersey to a small, Southern town like Spartanburg, SC. A bit of a culture shock, right?

Now imagine the courage it must take to leave your home country and immerse yourself in a foreign culture for more than three years of chiropractic college in the small, Southern town of Spartanburg, SC.

Every year numerous students make that journey, often halfway across the world, and start their chiropractic education here. College staff and faculty are working to make the transition to American life, Spartanburg and Sherman College easier for international students (nearly 10 percent of the college's enrollment) with a new International Student Club.

"We started the club because we want to help international students adjust to life in the United States," says the club's president, Chris Toellner. A ninth-quarter student from Canada, Toellner says the club especially wants to help first-quarter students and those for whom English is not their native language.

"If you're from overseas, settling into a new country can be overwhelming," he says. "Even if you speak the same language, it can still be difficult. Customs are different. Words and phrases have different meanings. You have to watch and see how people learn and react." International students can also feel isolated if home is very far away, making it impractical to rely on family for day-to-day emotional support, or to travel home for holidays.

The club addresses issues including visas, green cards, Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations and citizenship. Members make informative presentations so others can learn about their countries. Toellner and Nick Bianchi, the club's vice president, recently educated other club members about the culture and customs of Canada. "These presentations give us the opportunity to learn about other countries without actually going there," Toellner says. Even students from the U.S. are participating in the club to learn more about their international classmates and their countries.

International Student Club members hope to connect with international clubs at other area colleges and organize trips to visit those colleges. Members are also planning outings to area landmarks and attractions. "Many international students might not have transportation or know where to go or what kind of activities are available," Toellner says. "If you're going to be here for three and a half years, there are a lot of nice places to go and plenty of things to do."

The International Student Club also helps the Admission Office staff in their efforts to answer questions and ease concerns of prospective students from other countries. "International Student Club members are helping us create a mentoring experience for prospective international students," says Director of Admissions and International Student Advisor Lisa Hildebrand. "Many prospective international students contact us through e-mail, and our current international students will get in touch with them that way. I think our prospective students will find it helpful to have direct contact with current students who can empathize with them and help ease some of their concerns."

Hildebrand says she dedicates a large portion of her time to advising international students. "They have a lot of questions and usually need more reassurance than someone who is moving here from somewhere like New Jersey," she says.

Hildebrand and Dean of Chiropractic Health Services Garry Krakos, D.C., serve the International Student Club as advisors. Krakos founded and directed the Office of International Programs during his tenure as director of clinics at Palmer College, and he was instrumental in founding the first chiropractic college in South America. He also developed the Clinic Abroad program, an international clinical program providing chiropractic care around the globe.

- If you are interested in mentoring a student, please e-mail Director of Ambassador Relations Kellie Candino at kcandino@sherman.edu or call 800-849-8771, ext. 1363.

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