Orientation seeks to build class unity

By Annie Flanagan

The Fall 2008 first-year orientation will be marked by efforts to promote increased interaction between international and domestic students.Now, domestic roommates of international first-years will be invited to attend the international orientation, which typically falls a few days before the general first-year orientation begins. Some students have said that this preliminary orientation for international students contributes to division between some international and domestic students.

“We are changing the name to pre-orientation for international students,” Aaron Colhapp, international students program coordinator, said. “But we aren’t actually changing much. It’s more or less a question of semantics.”

Another gap Campus Life and the International Student Program is trying to bridge is within dorm rooms, by incorporating international students’ domestic roommates into programs like the drop-off activity, in which students are dropped off at locations across the Twin Cities and made to find their way back to Macalester.

“The idea,” Colhapp said, “is to approach these questions from a cultural background, but also a human background. The goal is developing the tools for people to meet each other and relate to each other.”

Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said that the goal of Orientation is “to provide an opportunity for incoming students to become acclimated to the college, familiar with the goals and values of the community and to become prepared to be successful academically.”

But in the case of international students, Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards said, since they have already attended the international students orientation, attendance at the general orientation is low.

“Later,” he said, “many students regret missing out.”

“We have had success with recruiting international students and off-season athletes to be Orientation Leaders,” he said, “because some students have felt this schedule disconnect so the students were right on board.”

Whether they are international students, athletes or have been on campus for some other reason, Colhapp said, familiarity with the environment and other students can seem intimidating. However, this is not an excuse for isolating these groups.

“Some of the reasoning was to make it easier for the international students to mix in, but it’s always much easier for an insider to approach an outsider than vice versa” he said.

“Roommates are roommates,” said Eric Luckey ’07 who lived with a student from Sweden his first year at Macalester. “Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t, but if you have immediate resources to ease into the living situation it can make the process less awkward.