Updated on Feb. 12. at 8:23 p.m.
Yuqi Zhang didn’t know English well when she first came to Temple University. As an international student from China, the senior music therapy major had to enroll in a secondary language program, she said.
Zhang had not heard of International Student Affairs when she arrived at Temple, but she believes that if she knew of the offices’ services, she would have had a simpler time adjusting.
Established in 2016, International Student Affairs is responsible for providing personalized support to the university’s 3,000 international students, a number that has more than doubled since 2011.
International Student Affairs is an office within the Office of International Affairs, which includes 10 offices in total that support international education at Temple, said Leah Hetzell, the office’s director.
“As a sister department to the other OIA offices, ISA was created in order to more specifically focus on international student success and help students navigate some of the daily life challenges that they face,” Hetzell said. “We are committed to expanding engagement and leadership opportunities for students, while providing space for students who need a deeper level of assistance which may require more time and energy.”
Despite the university’s growing international student population, the office has been staffed by two full-time employees.
“We know what the plan is and what we want to be able to do, but the office has been growing so fast,” Hetzell said. “We’re able to do those things now, but we just need the additional support for the future.”
The office also receives part-time help from student workers, but Marena Ariffin, the office’s assistant director, and Hetzell want to propose establishing a coordinator-level position in their office at the annual budget meeting for the university, but the process for requesting and approving a new staff position is a lengthy one, Hetzell added
“With any regular staff position, that’s money and it’s on an annual basis,” Hetzell said. “You really have to show the value it’ll bring to the community. It’s a process to bring it to reality. We have to show our figures and students’ quotes.”
A spokesperson for the university did not respond to a request for comment on the office’s staffing.
The office saw attendance at its You Are Welcome Here Week, Temple’s annual week of globally inspired events, increase by 25 percent in 2019 compared to the year before, Hetzell said. Student participation in Peer2Peer mentoring services has also increased by 20 percent within the past year, she added.
The office is also focused on working closely with International Admissions and the New Student and Family Programs to help international students prior to their arrival at Temple and in their transition to the area, Hetzell said.
“As international students go through their college careers, they may find that certain things are more challenging for them and may need additional information, resources, or support,” Hetzell said. “That’s really the foundation of what we do.”
The office helps students with housing, banking, travel, among other questions about being an international student at Temple, Ariffin added.
Manuela Sobral, a junior sport tourism hospitality management major from Brazil, helps to organize and prepare for International Student Affairs’ events.
Sobral considers working for the office a great experience.
“I just know that if I ever need anything at all, Leah, Marena, and the office will be there for me,” Sobral said.
On Jan. 27, Temple Student Government’s Parliament passed a resolution calling on the executive branch to issue statements of support for international students in light of the understaffing in International Student Affairs. Student Body President Francesca Capozzi signed this bill on Jan. 30.
“I think Temple does need more international awareness among domestic students,” said Wenting Ao, a senior media and communications major from China and Parliament’s multicultural representative who proposed the resolution. “If people are more aware of international communities, international departments may get more allocations and opportunities to provide for their students.”
Ao is also a student worker for International Student Affairs
“The type of legacy we’d like to leave here at Temple is that the office provided deep support for students in a personalized way, in a way not many other universities do,” Ariffin said. “I hope that someday down the line, students will remember the office being there when they felt alone and needed someone on their side.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that International Student Affairs helped students complete work permits. Those services are provided by International Student and Scholar Services, a different office.