The Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars can be called a one-stop shop for everything an international student needs to thrive at UCLA. Unfortunately, it is a one-stop shop that doesn’t know how to advertise its products.
The Dashew Center aims to cater to the needs of international students by offering resources such as visa information services, work-permit programs, curricular training and social events to help students get better acquainted with life in Los Angeles.
It has no doubt made an effort to provide international students from different backgrounds and academic systems the support they need to transition smoothly to UCLA. However, it has failed to appropriately inform them of the multitude of resources available to them.
Many international students say they often struggle to find the academic help they need and are unable to take full advantage of what is available to them, which can adversely affect their academic performance and leave them feeling lost. As such, the Dashew Center should better publicize the types of services it offers and make sure international students are aware of the wealth of resources available to them on campus.
The Dashew Center provides academic support to international students in a variety of ways. For example, it gives students a brief overview of the American academic system through an online orientation module called [email protected], and has staff available for personal guidance. The Dashew Center also partners with the Undergraduate Writing Center and the Writing Success Program to provide workshops for students looking to improve their writing skills.
However, many international students are unaware of these academic programs.
“When I had to write my first essay at UCLA, I had no idea how to go about it. I did not know how to research for it, structure it or cite my sources,” said Nakul Vij, a second-year mathematics/economics student. “I didn’t know of any external resources that I could take advantage of besides my (teaching assistant).”
Moises Mizrachi, a second-year communications and international development studies student echoed these sentiments.
“Back in school in Panama, we never wrote full essays,” Mizrachi said. “Then, I come to UCLA and have a final which requires me to write three short, one-page essays and two three-page essays, which I’m not prepared for in any way.”
Evidently, the Dashew Center is not doing enough to inform the international community of the array of resources at its disposal.
While the Dashew Center does a good job of advertising its social events through multiple emails and Facebook event reminders, the same cannot be said of its academic workshops and programs. The events section of the DCISS Facebook page, for instance, is filled with past and upcoming trips to Griffith Observatory, downtown LA, Yosemite and Laguna beaches, new Bruin social mixers, comedy shows and concerts.
But, there is no mention of crucial weekly academic events such as the English Language Circle, which helps international students improve their English language conversation skills and grammar.
While these regular emails are effective in communicating about social events, academic events don’t fare as well.
“I tend to skip over the emails that Dashew Center sends us because they’re always about social events that the center is planning,” said Swapnil Bhardwaj, a second-year international development studies student. “They should send us emails about the academics-oriented events too, and somehow distinguish them from those about social events.”
To put it simply, the Dashew Center needs to expand its publicizing efforts. The Dashew Center should send more email reminders about its academics-centered events and distribute flyers, either by having staff pass them out on Bruin Walk or by sliding them under dorm room doors.
The Dashew Center can also make it mandatory for international students to attend periodic academic counseling sessions in their first year to discuss their academic progress and answer any queries they might have. Doing so would ensure new students are cognizant of how the Dashew Center’s programs can help them acclimate to UCLA’s curriculum.
Certainly, some may argue that it is the student’s responsibility to reach out to get the help they need and find out about workshops and events taking place on campus. While true, it is also the Dashew Center’s duty to ensure that international students are able to settle into their new environment socially and academically. And given that the Dashew Center does a good job of notifying international students of events that help them integrate into American society socially, it should also make more of an effort to advertise programs that make students’ academic journeys easier.
The Dashew Center understands the specific academic and social needs of international students and provides services to address those needs. The hard part is over, now it just needs to let students know about them.