Adria Zampich-Gibbs from the International Scholar and Faculty Services (ISFS), and Marian Moore from Career Services at Oregon State University coordinated a focus group meeting with over 12 international faculty, researchers, post-docs, and student interns during International Education Week.

The international scholars came to Oregon State University as Exchange Visitors on the Department of State’s J visa. The J-1 Visa provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. The multidimensional programs enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, or participate in an internship; scholars may be at OSU for a few weeks to several years.

The focus group was designed to gather information about international scholar’s adjustment to American academic culture and living in the United States and to determine what programs are needed to better serve international scholars who are hosted by OSU. The focus group’s questions related to the scholar’s experiences in academic life, preparedness to coming to the United States, challenges, and relationships with colleagues.

The scholars had positive things to say about their sponsoring professors and OSU; many of the scholars stated that they chose to conduct their program at OSU because of existing partnerships or that their research focus was similar to an OSU professor’s focus. Scholars noted they were a surprised at the diversity at OSU, the friendly relationship between supervisor and scholar, and the casual program atmosphere.

The scholars brought up concerns around difficulties transitioning to life in America, cross-cultural communication misunderstandings, and English language concerns. These are common concerns that international students and scholars face when transitioning to a new culture and lifestyle.

The next steps will be for staff in the ISFS office to create programming and resources to address scholar’s concerns and needs. Suggestions recommended included starting a learning community and support group for scholars, updating the orientation website so materials and information are easy to access, and to have programming that introduces American culture and the Oregon area.

Please continue to watch the ISFS website and OSU International Scholars Community facebook page as these suggestions take place over the next few months.