Since moving to the rededicated International Hall in 2014, the Sonoma State University Center for International Education (CIE) has added more than just lounge areas, workspaces and hi-tech meeting rooms. It has established International Hall as a hub for study-abroad students both visiting and returning to Sonoma State.
"The international students this semester are really involved, and they're having a ton of fun," says CIE Programs Assistant Milan Morales. "Having all of our programs in International Hall has really helped form a community."
Whereas programs were previously spread out in different buildings around campus, International Hall now houses the Sonoma State American Language Institute, CSU International Programs, Student Ambassador Program and more programs under one roof.
This semester, CIE is hosting 43 international students from 15 different countries, with 11 ambassadors in the office. "We are more involved and hands-on with foreign students than before the move," says Morales. "We don't just give them an emergency number and say good luck -- we really try to be here for them."
According to the Institute of International Education, the number of U.S. study abroad students increased 5 percent in the 2013-14 academic year, and U.S. student participation in study abroad has more than tripled over the past two decades. Similarly, the number of international students studying in the United States grew to almost 1 million in 2014-15, up 10 percent from the previous year.
Besides being an invaluable resource for students interested in studying abroad, CIE has also established International Hall as the hub for foreign students. Ambassadors host culture meetings every Thursday and plan field trips and other activities for international students experiencing Sonoma State for the first time. These students often join clubs and play intramural sports to take advantage of the extracurricular environment they may not have back home.
CIE student ambassador Angie Durkee spent a semester in Spain before returning to the United States. As an ambassador, she gets to share her own experiences with the international community. "Helping students acclimate to our culture here, even by doing something simple like translating, is so rewarding," says Durkee.
In the future, CIE has plans to partner Work Intern Volunteer Abroad (WIVA) with individual departments, enabling students to tackle internship requirements while abroad.