International students endure on-campus limitations over break

Addis Gonzalez

The Sun Star

With few dining resources available and many other on-campus facilities closed during the winter break, French Professor Yelena Matusevich took two Brazilian international students, with knowledge of only rudimentary stores for groceries and clothing, on a tour of the city of Fairbanks.

The moon rises over Fairbanks during Christmas break. During the winter, particularly during school breaks, there isn't much for the international students to do in Fairbanks.

The sun sets over Fairbanks during Christmas break. During the winter, particularly during school breaks, there isn’t much for the international students to do in Fairbanks. Photo courtesy of Yan Trindade.

Matusevich, former French professor to petroleum engineer student Marcel Soubkovsky-Clemente, took it upon herself to provide a tour around Fairbanks to Creamer’s Field, Barnes & Noble, the Artisan’s Courtyard, the oldest Catholic church and café in Fairbanks, the downtown area and also provided some historical facts about the city. She felt dismayed and surprised that these international students were left on campus with little information on the facilities the city of Fairbanks had to offer.

“It is just that the services are missing because when I talked to Marcel, he said when they went to Pennsylvania they took them on an excursion to New York on the same program to Washington, they took care of them,” she said.

Yan Trindade, an international student from Brazil who is studying petroleum engineering, said that the international students received an introductory presentation of the areas on campus as well as bus line schedules and the student handbook – which consisted of information about health insurance, meal plans and buildings in the university.

Going on the tour with Matusevich left Trindade feeling “like the city has a lot of activities to offer. Before that we thought that the university was the best thing in the city.”

Trindade wanted more information about the city of Fairbanks and suggested the International Programs & Initiatives department offer a “tour around the city by van” that would incorporate information about “the city, historical places, the regional art gallery and the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.”

“In past years, New Student Orientation has coordinated with Explore Fairbanks to offer a bus tour of Fairbanks and Outdoor Adventures has offered tours of Fairbanks by bike,” Donna Anger, director of UAF International Programs and Initiatives, said. Also offered are organized get-togethers by the International Student Organization (ISO) and programming during the break and transportation to Walmart and Fred Meyer by Residence Life.
“We focus on the resources, support services, programs, and opportunities available for students on campus, and with the exception of Fred Meyer College Night, we don’t take students off of campus. I do encourage the Orientation Leaders to share their favorite Fairbanks hangouts and places to see during the more informal conversations with students in their orientation group,” New Student Orientation (NSO) coordinator Ronnie Houchin said.

When hearing of the issues expressed by Matusevich and Trindade, Houchin thought that all students should get out and explore Fairbanks and even suggested using the MACS bus system as a great way to get around.
“Whether it’s winter break or spring break or any other time during the academic year, students should make the most of their time in Fairbanks by taking advantage of all the city has to offer,” said Houchin.
He also mentioned a number of departments on campus, including Outdoor Adventures and the LIVE Program, which offer events throughout the year that take students out into Fairbanks and the surrounding area.
Matusevich suggested that programs such as these also provide information on amenities offered by the city of Fairbanks, informational flyers be posted on the doors of students who stay on campus over winter break before the break begins and an advertisement be posted on The Sun Star or Fairbanks Daily News-Miner to see who would be interested in providing day tours or being a host during the holidays.

From her editorial “International students deserve better reception at UAF,” which was published in the News-Miner, Matusevich received a response from a UAF student who had studied abroad to Germany as well as a couple of e-mails from people saying they would love to get involved and wanted to know where they could apply or ask about hosting an international student for Christmas break or at least inviting them to Christmas dinner and showing them around.

Compared to other universities worldwide, UAF is “similar in providing a combination of university-focused information and programming and practical information on local services and events,” Anger said.

She hopes in the future for orientation information to be provided online so that students can access the information prior to their arrival at UAF and so they have continuous access to the information with the overall goal to ensure domestic and international students have a positive and successful experience at UAF.

Petroleum engineering and Brazilian international student, Ianny Andrade, who also stayed on campus during winter break, felt that it would’ve been useful to know that the Wood Center would close, or that she wouldn’t have anything to do here.

“It was depressing,” Andrade said about staying on campus during winter break. “Everything was closed, it was dark most of the time and there weren’t many things to do.” She suggested that overall, “these programs should try to make some activities for students who stay, because in my experience, we were completely forgotten.”

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *