The International Club was a core part of the Trinity experience for many international students since it was formed in 2007. But it went inactive last academic year due to a lack of available officers and questions regarding the need for the club; several students have expressed dissatisfaction with the clubâ€™s absence, especially after one of its staple events, the annual spring international student banquet, was not put on last year.
The international student population has grown from 50 to 160 students in the past 10 years, according to Qui Jiang, international student advisor. Despite this growth, the lack of available officers precluded the continued existence of the club. Jiang observed that one possible reason for the lack of officers willing to devote a lot of time to International Club is the formation of smaller, more culturally specific groups as the number of students from specific regions have grown to group-size numbers.
â€œThe population became bigger and smaller groups formed as the group got bigger. They all have their own cultures: Chinese culture, Filipino culture, African cultures â€” people kind of have more attachment to their cultural groups now,â€ Jiang said.
Even two years ago, during the final year of the International Clubâ€™s existence, the officers were too busy to adequately prepare some of the clubâ€™s larger events.
â€œThe last International Club officers were kind of struggling to keep the organization running, especially for the big events. There are not many, but one of the of the big events is the spring international banquet, and they had a hard time finding the people to help with logistics,â€ Jiang said.
Robert Seese, the assistant director of international student and scholar services, noted a similar trend when he first arrived at Trinity in 2014.
â€œOur observation is that there are very few people â€” even though they had the officers in place â€” who were actually carrying the load. Their major activity was the annual spring banquet, which is sort of like a goodbye to the senior international students, and it was a nice event. But frankly, I noticed when I first got here that it wasnâ€™t as well attended as I expected, although I didnâ€™t know exactly what to expect,â€ Seese said.
Regis Noubiap, a senior international student, hopes to address the issue of lack of leadership within the International Club and to facilitate the return of the club in time for the spring banquet. (Noubiap is also an advertising executive for the Trinitonian.) He is currently holding focus groups to get feedback from other international students to assess the level of need for the club.
â€œRegis has a lot of passion for the International Club, and I think heâ€™ll help bring it back,â€ said Sajoy Pottian, a junior and former member of the International Club.
International students face many hurdles to overcome when they arrive at Trinity. In Pottianâ€™s experience, International Club helps students address feelings of homesickness.
â€œItâ€™s really easy for international students to get homesick, especially when you come here alone. I used to have someone who came to my room when she was a freshman. She was from Tanzania, and she used to come over at twelve or one in the morning just because she was homesick. I remember whenever I felt like that, I looked forward to International Club, because then I would get to meet with people who are feeling the same way,â€ Pottian said.
Cross-cultural exchange is one of the defining aspects of the International Club, as it incorporates and and celebrates the cultures of regions across the globe.
â€œI think that bringing the International Club back is important mainly because otherwise you donâ€™t get to know all the international students. There will be more cultural exchange and mutual support. I know the Latin American students â€” I donâ€™t know the Asian students,â€ said first-year Nicolas Diaz, who came to Trinity from Ecuador.
Diaz appreciates the existing support network for international students, but feels that the return of the club would strengthen the support network.
â€œI came to Trinity because there are a lot of international students, especially from my country. So, I kind of felt not so much in the USA, but at home. Itâ€™s a feeling of mutual Latin American culture,â€ Diaz said. â€œThe return of the International Club would be more support for us.â€
The return of the International Club is not yet assured.
â€œWeâ€™re not trying to support an organization just because itâ€™s there â€” we want to make sure itâ€™s important and substantive,â€ Seese said. â€œWhat weâ€™re doing is asking, â€˜Okay, what are the needs of the international students and how can the International Club help?â€™ â€
To help answer that question, the Center for International Engagement is gathering information from students on how best to address their needs.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping to make a collective decision with students by next semester, because we feel by that time weâ€™ll have the information and the feedback we need to make a proposal and see what students think. It involves surveys, focus groups and weâ€™ll have a table during the International Engagement week, which is the third week of every November, and weâ€™ll have a survey for students to take,â€ Seese said.
For more information on the International Club, contact Regis Noubiap at email@example.com.