Using one YouTube video, Jessica Sandberg told 7,000 people that international students are welcome at Temple.
The video featured Temple faculty members and students all saying one simple message: “you are welcome here.”
“I thought that we really needed to stand up and make it known that international students are welcome, and not just say it, but show it,” said Sandberg, the director of admissions in the Office of International Affairs.
Study Group, a company that creates educational programming for international students, introduced the campaign #YouAreWelcomeHere to reach out to the students they serve. The company posted a video of people from schools across the country, like Roosevelt University in Chicago, saying “you are welcome here” in November 2016.
The campaign inspired Sandberg to make a similar video, which was posted a week after Study Group’s original version. Last month, the Office of International Affairs posted another video that featured Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf and alumni saying the same message.
Sandberg advocated for the campaign with a “one-person promotional tour,” she said. She talked about its message in December 2016 with administrators from other universities and organizations at events like a conference hosted by the American International Recruitment Council, which works to protect the interests of international students with ethical international admissions. More than 200 institutions have participated in the campaign by using the hashtag on social media.
Temple manages the campaign’s official Facebook page, Twitter account and website.
Thao Le, a freshman horticulture major from Vietnam, said coming to Temple was a huge, demanding change. She said her professors and friends supported her and helped her avoid a “breakdown.”
Le said the campaign doesn’t change her perception of Temple because she thinks the university always welcomed international students.
“I have total trust in Temple,” she said.
Thanh Tran, a freshman economics major from Vietnam, said the video isn’t effective because it seems superficial.
“I smiled while watching the video because they are all very warm and welcoming,” Tran said. “I think it’s also very good that the mayor and the governor are in those videos. But to be honest, I think it’s just a video and not as real as it is in real life.”
Tran said more international students should be featured in the videos to discuss how they’ve adapted to the United States.
Le said the Office of International Affairs could be more involved with how international students adapt to life at Temple by encouraging more people to participate with the International Student Association, a student organization that hopes to promote cultural diversity on Main Campus. Le is also a member of the organization.
Sandberg said most of the programming that helps students adjust is handled by her office. She also works with Temple’s International Student and Scholar Services, which advises international students about issues like acquiring legal documents, and the Intensive English Language Program — a resource some international students use to improve their English and communication skills.
She said she also works with the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership, which offers a safe space for students to discuss their college experiences.
“What I like about how we are organized is that all of us are working for international students in some capacity,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg said Temple isn’t just participating in #YouAreWelcomeHere — the university is leading it through social media.
“I really like to think that that says a lot about our commitment to international students,” Sandberg said. “I think that it’s a point of pride that we are really making a major commitment to international students by spearheading this campaign and trying to spread it around the United States.”
Ayooluwa Ariyo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.