Huskies International and Education Abroad teamed up to create HuskyMates this past week to help exchange students integrate themselves in the University of Connecticut community.
The new program pairs UConn students with one or two international students and encourages the integration and understanding of each other’s culture.
“Our goal is to provide the means for foreign students to get the most out of their time at UConn, so that they feel like a true Husky, while allowing UConn students to learn about another culture and helping an exchange student learn about American culture,” HuskyMates co-founder and eighth-semester biomedical engineering major Kayla Crook said.
Although paired students are invited to events to help facilitate the growth of relationships, HuskyMates is meant to be a guide that encourages an individualized experience, Crook said.
HuskyMates participants are also invited to events hosted by Huskies International in hopes of developing the relationship even further.
Last year, the UConn Storrs and regional campuses enrolled over 3,000 international students, ranging from undergraduates to professionals, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (OIR).
These students represent 109 countries around the globe. The largest numbers of these students are at the graduate level and some are graduate assistants who conduct research or teach, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.
UConn saw a steady increase in international students with 1,585 in total in 2008, reaching 2,175 in 2012, and now 3,555 as of Fall 2016, according to the OIR’s residence enrollment data.
This spring, there are a total of about 50 international students enrolled at the Storrs campus, Crook said.
The application process for HuskyMates, which ended last Friday, was a success with 64 UConn student applicants and 15 exchange student applicants, Crook said.
“We’d love to have more exchange students get involved, but for our first semester, we’re extremely happy with the turnout,” Crook said.
In total, 45 students were paired and the remaining were invited to stay involved through either HuskyMates or Huskies International, Crook said.
The program originally began with Huskies International, a student organization that tries to incorporate UConn and international students together through trips and activities.
International students tend to stick together, whether it be because of a common language or because they know each other, Huskies International president and eighth-semester individualized crime, justice and law major Brittany Davis said.
“We try to steer away from that with our organization,” Davis said.
Davis said that Education Abroad approached her and suggested they combine their programs to gain more participants for Huskies International.
Huskies International hosts trips for UConn and exchange students to socialize. Last semester, the organization had a trip to Washington D.C. with 29 students in early December, according to Davis.
This semester, Huskies International is planning trips to Boston and Foxwoods Resort Casino as well as local trips with activities like ice skating, sledding on Horsebarn Hill and dining hall dinners.
Students can also get involved by going to Huskies International meetings where they can socialize, play games and eat snacks, Davis said.
Davis said she hopes the Executive Board will continue to recruit more UConn students for Huskies International after she’s graduated and that those students will stay involved.
“Our main goal is to try to improve the college experience here both for UConn students and exchange students,” Davis said.
It’s not a serious commitment and participation in even one trip is a lot of fun and worth it, Davis said.
Crook described herself as a strong advocate for studying abroad due to its encouragement of a widened perspective and the increase of an individual’s confidence and independence.
“This program supports all of these ideals for students while staying in Storrs,” Crook said.
Huskies International has bi-weekly meetings on Mondays at 8 p.m. at the Family Studies Building in room 216.
Daniela Doncel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.