More than thirty students from across the globe gathered in One Wheelock Tuesday night to drink tea and forge connections with other Dartmouth students. The event was part of the Monday Night Tea series, and was the first official event of the school year sponsored by the International Graduate Mentoring Program (IGMP). The goal of the series is to provide activities for incoming international students that promote conversation and provide a socializing alternative to larger parties.
While some students appeared nervous at the beginning of the event, by the end, they were relaxed and jovial. Lively conversations of travel animated the room for several hours. Students sampled a selection of teas from around the world as they mingled and chatted. Some greeted old friends, while others met their mentors or mentees for the first time.
The IGMP matches pairs of mentors with two or more incoming international graduate students to help them with their initial transition to Dartmouth and, in many cases, to the United States.
Marie Onakomaiya, a student in Experimental Molecular Medicine and one of the IGMP coordinators, was a mentee during her first year at Dartmouth. She said she found her mentor extremely helpful when she moved to the Upper Valley. From asking questions about campus, to getting a ride to her apartment when she first arrived on the Dartmouth Coach, her mentor served as a valuable resource to her. “My apartment was in Lebanon and I literally had no way to get there. My mentor was my first contact, and gave me a ride when I arrived.”
In subsequent years, Marie served as a mentor to new international students. Now, as a coordinator of the program, she is excited to facilitate events for mentors and mentees. “The aim is to hold [the Monday Night Tea series] once a month” to give mentors and mentees a chance to get to know one another, she said.
Nadia Cumbal, a first year Molecular and Cellular Biology student from Quito, Ecuador, said that the transition to Dartmouth was “quite a change.” Moving to Hanover is her first experience living outside of her family’s house. Living with parents, during undergraduate years, is common for students in many parts of South and Central America. Not only are cultural changes difficult, but Nadia also said, “The education system [in the US] as a whole is very different.”
Adapting to cultural and educational differences, combined with experiencing language barriers can make some international students feel isolated. “Sometimes it can get very lonely,” Nadia said.
However, Nadia also said that the Dartmouth community has been very welcoming to her. “You should not be afraid of talking to people,” she advises other international students. “Everyone has offered me rides and has been really helpful.”
One of Nadia’s mentors is Keri Wolfe, a New Hampshire native and student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. “I became a mentor because I wanted to meet new people, and make connections outside of the MALS program,” she said. Keri has lived in the Upper Valley for several years and is excited to serve as a resource for international students.
The IGMP is planning to sponsor pumpkin carving, apple picking and a trip to a corn maze this fall. They also plan on holding a Thanksgiving dinner event. While the events are focused on mentor-mentee relationships, their programs are open to all Dartmouth graduate students and their families.
“These events are a great way to introduce people to New England,” Marie said.
For more information about upcoming IGMP events, visit their Facebook page.
by Jackson Shultz