2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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International Students Get Introduced to NY and TC

Student Life staffers and student volunteers spent the first Friday of the new semester literally showing new international students at the College how to get around the block.

Marion Boultbee, Coordinator of International Services, directed a five-hour program, during which the students were given an introduction to the city and the College that included suggestions on where to shop; a guide on sources of financial aid; safety tips from the NYPD and "street smart" peers; and a map of Morningside Heights.

The day's activities featured a scavenger hunt in which the students were given a list of tasks to complete. For example, where to go to replace a lost I.D. card, order discount movie tickets, and sign up for a computer workshop. The two-person team that located the most places correctly in the shortest time won T-shirts.

Boultbee was assisted by some international students who have been at TC long enough to get around easily but who have arrived recently enough that they still understand what those first few months in New York are like.

José Vallarta, who is working on a master's in Organizational Psychology, has been at TC for about a year and a half. He came to TC from Mexico City but was actually born in New York City. His father worked at the United Nations.

His adjustment to New York City was fairly easy. However, he understands why it isn't so easy for others. "The speed. The pace is fast. Everyone is in a very big hurry in the city," he explained. "People are overwhelmed by the city."

There is also the issue of stereotyping based on fiction and fact. These students have seen movies where New York City has been bombed by terrorists, blown up by hostile aliens and crushed by chunks of asteroids, Vallarta said. Add to those fictional images news accounts of muggings, shootings and racial tensions and it isn't difficult to understand why they might be anxious about living here, he said.

Furthermore, there are questions about academic issues, Vallarta said. For example, he said: "School systems are different. Some people have never written an essay." In some countries, students are expected to learn facts, not analyze information.

That's one of the reasons some of the international students decided to enroll at Teachers College. Manlahji, for example, is from Tibet. She graduated from a university in her homeland and has been teaching for about four and a half years.

She came to TC because she is interested in learning more about teaching and developing a curriculum. The students at her school learn by repetition and memorization.

In grammar, for example, she said: "Students are good at writing and they're good at testing. But they can't communicate fluently.

"I want to change the teaching style," Manlahji said.

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