International orientation for the fall of 2020 will be online since Lehigh has advised most international first-year students not to travel to campus.
Orientation will be a mix of live and recorded sessions, according to Caroline Neal, the intercultural programs coordinator for the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS). The recorded programming is designed to accommodate students in different time zones while the live sessions will allow students to form connections with each other.
“They may want to meet their cohort so they can see ‘there are all these students who are going through a similar experience, it’s not just me,’” Neal said.
In addition to providing an opportunity for students to meet their class, international orientation will include information sessions led by directors of offices on Lehigh’s campus. The offices’ directors will create videos about who they are and what they do, with an emphasis on the resources they provide and how students can access them while abroad.
“If students have issues, we want them to know who their people are to reach out to,” Neal said.
Although in past years international orientation sessions have been led by an international orientation leader, it will be different this fall due to orientation moving online. However, OISS is working on ways incorporate the international orientation leaders into the sessions and provide opportunities for them to connect with the international students.
Because first-year students typically use orientation leaders as a contact point for their questions, OISS is working to ensure that international first-years are equipped with resources and contacts on campus. The OISS has been in close contact with students and their families in order to keep them updated and build connections.
“Normally we wouldn’t get to know these students until August, but at this point we’ve already met with them several times,” Neal said. “There has definitely been a different level of support this year.”
Like in past years, international students will still be a part of the Office of First Year Experience’s (OFYE) orientation. The OFYE virtual orientation events will allow international students to meet their peers on campus and to learn more about Lehigh.
Many international students are also enrolled in a summer program called Virtual College Success Academy, a three-credit course which every incoming international student has the option to enroll in for no additional cost. This course provides information about Lehigh and what going to college in the United States is like, which will be discussed further during orientation.
Students enrolled in a Lehigh in Residence program may also have an on-site orientation. IES Shanghai designed an orientation for Chinese students to participate in on campus. At this time, it is unknown which other Lehigh in Residence locations will provide additional on-site orientation.
Despite the unknowns, Neal is confident that international first-years will be given the tools for the best possible transition to college under the circumstances.
“It’s quite a different year, but we have to go with it day by day because this is the situation that the entire world is in, not just Lehigh,” Neal said.