More than 500 undergraduate international students from over 60 countries are studying engineering at Iowa State.
Engineering Global Friends, a program part of the Iowa State University Engineering International Student Network, is providing a warm and inviting welcome to students entering the college from across the globe.
Domestic students involved in the network are easing the transition for international students entering a new culture and unfamiliar place. The unique structure of the peer mentor program pairs domestic and international students together, leading to the cultivation of lasting friendships and a welcoming environment.
Student retention coordinator for engineering international programs Santos Núñez supports professional development of international and multicultural students in the college. Núñez has seen firsthand how participants have come to value the Engineering Global Friends program and the experiences they share with their international peers.
“Our domestic students have indicated they enjoy the program because it gives them an opportunity to interact and work with diverse communities which is a crucial competency for future engineers,” Núñez said.
Students are introduced to their peer mentors at a meet and greet event at the beginning of each semester and participate in one-on-one meetings and group activities. While learning about an unfamiliar international culture and building a friendship with someone from across the globe, participants also earn an international peer mentor certificate.
Sharing program benefits through leadership
Ying Xi “Kimmo” Soo, senior in industrial engineering, served as the student coordinator for Engineering Global Friends in 2018. Today, the role is overseen by Daisy Tran, a senior in mechanical engineering. Soo played a central role in recruiting new program participants and also worked to pair up each student with an international peer.
“Knowing a friend in the College of Engineering for international students is definitely a plus,” Soo said. “The Engineering Global Friends program creates a lot of amazing friendships across cultural boundaries.”
Soo has recognized the needs of international students in adjusting to a new environment and credits Engineering Global Friends with helping them through this transition. Speaking from personal experience, she wants to help others make the transition to a new culture just as she did.
“I like that what I am doing is helping international students to make friends with the domestic students so they can get to know each other,” Soo said.
Soo has enjoyed bringing domestic and international students together to spark new friendships. Reflecting on her experience, Soo has enjoyed bringing the opportunities she has benefited from to students in the program.
In a recent survey to Engineering Global Friends participants, members valued their experiences for having the opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and make lasting friendships by connecting across cultures. Their reflections echo the traits of Engineering Global Friends that Soo has admired during her time with the program.