The orientation before orientation, aka pre-orientation

By Kristin Magyari, Assistant Director for Communications & Marketing, Global Initiatives

Miami University began conducting pre-orientation in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai for Chinese international students in 2014 and this initiative has evolved throughout the years. Earlier this summer, the 5th pre-orientation session was held. The major purpose pre-orientation serves is to better prepare Miami’s Chinese international students for their experience at Miami University, in terms of academic expectations and travel, arrival, and orientation program logistics.

Miami staff at pre-orientation in China, with Miami signBringing Miami staff to China before the semester begins

As a collaborative effort between multiple offices on campus, International Student and Scholar Services, American Culture and English Program, Admissions, student advising from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Farmer School of Business, and Student Life, this year’s orientation sent many Miami staff to China. Cheryl D. Young, Assistant Provost of Global Initiatives, stated, "Pre-orientation sessions in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou went really well. There were many engaged students and parents. Parents asked a lot of questions about safety and the students were curious about the academic and residence life experiences."

Miami staff that led pre-orientation included:

  • Cheryl D. Young | Assistant Provost, Interim Director of eLearning
  • Amy Cockrell | Senior International Student Advisor, International Student and Scholar Services
  • Carol Olausen | Director, American Culture and English Program
  • Christie Zwahlen | Director, Community Engagement-Student Life
  • Natalie Meyer | Academic Advisor, Farmer School of Business
  • Ambrose Li | Miami Alum, international student from China
  • Lina Zhang | China Regional Recruitment Coordinator, Admissions

student volunteers at pre-orientation in ChinaStudent volunteers from China make these sessions possible

We also welcomed about 40 student volunteers to assist with orientation sessions. Many Chinese international students who are home for the summer enjoy volunteering and must apply for this position. They enjoy the experience and opportunity of assisting with pre-orientation, networking with new students, and giving back to the Miami community to help others find the sense of home that they have found for themselves at Miami.

Our student volunteers greeted and checked-in incoming students and parents, gave short presentations from their perspective as an international student at Miami, and helped with translation work. We would like to thank our student volunteers for their tremendous support during orientation sessions this summer. They really exemplified Love and Honor with energy.

The importance of pre-orientation

A major factor that played into the start of pre-orientation in 2014, was to increase the quality of communication with international student parents. “We wanted to figure out ways to connect with them because most never have the opportunity to come to Oxford. They might not feel connected or know what to expect from their student’s upcoming college experience at Miami so we decided we’d go meet with them, make them feel comfortable, answer questions, show photos of campus...presenting all material for parents in Chinese, of course,” said Molly Heidemann, Director of International Student and Scholar Services.

Recurring outcomes

In general, the network among Miami  international students has increased due to pre-orientation. Students are better prepared for their academics and logistics of move-in after listening to the material included in pre-orientation presentations. Incoming students are also in communication with Miami staff, current international students (volunteers) and they are able to start familiarizing themselves with the Miami community before arriving to campus. Many students connect with one another on WeChat (popular social media platform in China) and begin building friendships that end up lasting throughout their college experience and beyond. When students arrive to Miami University mid-August, they see familiar faces during move-in, document checks, orientation sessions, etc. Pre-orientation brings students’ new home, Miami, to their hometowns in China.

Future plans

International student pre-orientation in China will continue and evolve each year, as we continue to access and develop the program based on feedback and findings. As long as our Chinese student population remains strong, we find this to be a valuable program for students.

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