The first day of move-in consisted of new faces from all over the world, ready to embark on their University adventure. In celebration, the International Studies Office hosted their annual community barbecue Friday evening, inviting domestic and international students to get to know University professors and student leaders.
The ISO Community BBQ is the ISO’s signature event and typically takes place in a University garden, though the event was held in Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room this year. Roughly 100 people were in attendance. Officers of ISO encouraged international students to bring their roommates or other students they have met over their first week at the University, culminating in an informal meet-and-greet.
Logan Petkosek, fourth-year College student and co-chair of Global Greeters, spoke to her study-abroad experience in the spring semester of her first year that motivated her to get more involved in the international student community at the University.
“I remember the experiences of feeling very welcome … as well as not welcome when I was abroad,” Petkosek said. “And being back in my home country, I am looking forward to really giving back to the people that really welcomed me into their country.”
The event started with mingling, subsequent to a catered Southern dinner. The event fostered an opportunity to interact with faculty in an informal way, which can be a much different relationship with professors than international students are used to.
Hilde Vissers, fourth-year College and study abroad student from Amsterdam, Netherlands, felt the event allowed her to meet new students of various years and countries.
“It was really interesting to talk to people and learn about what the school system in other countries are like,” Vissers said.
Architecture graduate student Tyler Hinkle explained that his favorite parts about the barbecue include the connections created amongst a group of people with diverse backgrounds and stories.
“You get to have so many amazing conversations with so many people from so many different backgrounds, so you can be a social butterfly and create groups to hear about these different experiences, and you don’t really get that everywhere at U.Va.,” Hinkle said. “This is a really fun time to get to know new people.
Graduate Arts & Sciences student Bader Alfarhan spoke to his background as an international student himself. His background is what encouraged him to get involved in Global Greeters — a University program in which students help welcome international students — and impact the international student community.
“This is my eighth year as an international student in the U.S.,” Alfarhan said. “I have always enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life. … Just like how I have been welcomed by people when I first came here, I would like to pay it forward.”
Natalia Zhiltsova, third-year College student and co-chair of Global Greeters, spoke to the value of both domestic and international students enjoying events like the barbecue and other ISO events, like free classes and workshops at the International Center during the year.
“In general, I would definitely encourage domestic students to interact with international students and one easy way to do that would be to just go to events by the International Center because they are not just events geared to international students,” Zhiltsova said. “That would be a great opportunity to bring domestic and international students together.”
Hinkle touched on the increased significance of welcoming international students after Charlottesville made international headlines due to the events of Aug. 11 and 12 two years ago.
“Looking up Cville is forever changed,” Hinkle said. “People get worried about what that means, but people see a happy face to help them along the way to warm up and ease up. It makes the culture shock a lot [easier] for them.”
Petkosek also emphasized how investing in the ISO community allows domestic students to learn valuable lessons about interacting and understanding some of the struggles of the international community.
“Patience is something we should all keep in mind,” Petkosek said. “A lot of times students aren’t as used to speaking English all the time, and if you’re not mindful of that that this is someone’s second, third or fourth language, be cognizant — it also captures being open to other ways of doing things.”