Global Programs revamps orientation to better serve international students

August 07, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The University Office of Global Programs will welcome more than 1,500 new international students from more than 80 countries to campus this fall.

Roughly 40 percent are undergrads and 60 percent are graduate students. According to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual report, Open Doors 2013, Penn State has the 10th largest international student population in the United States among institutions of higher education.

Over the past year, Global Programs has collaborated with the Office for Student Orientation and Transition Programs and other University and community partners to revamp the international orientation experience. For the first time, Global Programs is offering a two-day track designed for graduate students, and undergrads will be assigned a three-day small group experience, led by student Orientation Leaders.

“We have a three-day small group experience designed for the new undergrad students,” said Felix Weigel, international student orientation coordinator and lead designer of the new program. “We have more than 100 dedicated volunteers, including 50 Orientation Leaders, who lead a small group of roughly 25 new students through the three-day program. They learn, talk, eat and play together.”

Of the 50 Orientation Leaders, about 20 are Americans who either studied abroad or have been involved in the Global Penn State community, including participation in Global Engagement & Leadership Experience, a unique program that brings Americans and international students together each semester at the Bald Eagle Park Nature Inn for a leadership and listening weekend. The other 30 are international students who have also participated in GELE, or in Foundations in Global Engagement, and remember their own introduction to life at Penn State and want to be a part of the excitement.

Weigel has named each of the small groups after NFL teams to introduce the new students to American football and city names. At the end of each day, the groups come together and perform a skit reflecting on what they’ve learned that day and share photos.

“I am confident that after three days we have fully prepared the new students to be in Happy Valley. They know how to better communicate and how to succeed in an American classroom,” Weigel said. “They feel confident, and we’ve all made new friends.”

Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones and Vice Provost for Global Programs Michael Adewumi will officially welcome the students and their families to Penn State at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, in Eisenhower Auditorium.

For more information about International Student Orientation or to volunteer with the international community, visit

  • Orientation Leaders and students gathered at the Palmer Museum of Art

    Orientation Leaders and students gathered at the Palmer Museum of Art in June.

    IMAGE: Belinda Leong
Last Updated August 18, 2014