International students move in to Penn State Altoona

The transition from high school to college can be stressful for any incoming freshman, but for international students, there are a few more steps required to make the new dorm room a home.

Marion Wu, one of 125 first-year international students participating in orientation activities at Penn State Altoona this week, said adjusting to the relative quiet of Blair County has been hard. Eighteen-year-old Wu, who is originally from Shanghai, China, said she’s used to being surrounded by the lights and noise of one of the world’s largest cities. She’s also never been to the East Coast of the United States before.

“It’s been hectic, I can tell you that,” Wu said. “The sudden change, I’m not quite used to it.”

Sean Kelly, director of student affairs for PSU Altoona, said the campus invites the incoming international students to move in at least three days earlier than the American freshmen to give them some extra time to get settled.

Students living off-campus arrived as early as Friday, and those living in the dormitories began to move in on Monday, Kelly said. Before regular Welcome Week activities commence today, the international students were given information on topics like obtaining a driver’s license, finding jobs with their visas and setting up a bank account.

The students were also given some tips about navigating the Altoona area and pointers on where to find shopping, restaurants and other amenities, Kelly said.

“Like any student who’s away from home, it’s hard – but they’re coming from a world away,” he said.

There are more than 7,400 international students across Penn State’s 20 campuses, according to the university’s admissions website. At Penn State Altoona, the international students are assisted by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, a division of student affairs, Kelly said.

The Altoona students are offered help throughout their college career with finances, language and other potential cultural differences by that office. Having a smaller campus can make the transition for some students easier, Kelly said, compared to the size of the student body at the University Park campus.

The smaller class size can allow the students’ parents a chance to meet teachers and become more acquainted with the university staff, he said.

“There’s more opportunities for family members to know faculty or staff as well or to have that personal relationship,” Kelly said.

Wu said her first few hours on campus have gone well so far, and though she hasn’t been able to attend many of the orientation sessions, she was able to meet a number of the staff members she’ll be working with this year.

At least, she said, she knows she’ll have some support during the school year.

“Some of my closest friends are coming with me to school, which I think will make it easier on me,” Wu said.

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.