International students benefit from ISSO, International Village


Ian Levinson

The International Village is located in the 7000 building of the on-campus Ann V. Nicholson apartments.

Each academic year, students from across the globe come to America to study for a semester or earn their degrees. They assimilate into culture, learn the language and experience life as an American.

Oakland University hosts a handful of those students, who may live on or off campus. OU’s goal with these students is to provide them with a good experience and some friends who come from a culture different from their own.

How students get here

Petra Knoche, international adviser for OU’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), said the ISSO plays a big role in helping international students get here and supporting them once they arrive.

Knoche handles immigration documents and work visas to ensure that students can arrive without issue and that they have a place to live and work, if they choose to. Her office also acts as an advising office.

She said that she and many of her coworkers have experienced studying abroad in one form or another, so they can easily empathize with students who have struggle when being immersed in a foreign culture.

Knoche grew up in the Czech Republic and decided to stay in the U.S. after studying abroad here.

The ISSO also runs a program called Creating American International Relationships (CAIR), which provides host families for students away from home during holiday breaks or who want to spend some time off-campus.

Knoche said they also have a student ally program, run their own events and partner with the Center for Student Activities for events like International Night.

What it’s like

Paul Zhao, a junior studying chemical engineering, completed high school and his first two years of college in China. He lives in the International Village, which is located in the 7000 building of the on-campus Ann V. Nicholson apartments.

He said living there has been a big part of his experience here.

“This is my first semester away, and I’m not familiar with this place,” Zhao said. “But it’s been pretty good. I have good roommates.”

In the International Village, students are given at least one roommate who is from America. Zhao’s roommate is Darren Anderegg, a senior studying music education.

Both Zhao and Anderegg said they don’t have trouble communicating, and never have; Google Translate helps them when they need it. They said their only hiccup has been their difference in diet, but it was something they both found funny.

“I opened the fridge one day, and there was a whole fish staring up at me,” Anderegg laughed. “I mean, I eat fish, but I had never seen one fresh out of the sea like that.”

Zhao said that it was nice having someone from America to help him during the first few months.

Anderegg has helped Zhao with his English and with things like buying a car.

Anderegg said things like that are what made him choose the International Village.

“I wanted the opportunity to make friends that I could help,” Anderegg said. “With my home church, my family and I do a lot with international students, and it’s always been a lot of fun to be their American family. I also get to learn a lot about their culture. I know, like, two Chinese words now.”

Knoche said the ISSO encourages students to live in the village on campus because it gives students friends who can make the transition easier. Zhao said it’s something he likes, and he’s glad he chose it.