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International students get an MIT orientation

By Ben Stanger

Orientation for international undergraduates began on Monday with breakfast, a cookout, a meeting with MIT officials, and a trip for ice cream.

Approximately 80 undergraduates, 500 graduates, and 25 transfers from foreign countries will enroll as new MIT students this fall, according to Karen Zuffante, assistant to International Student Advisor Eugene R. Chamberlain.

Zuffante said the number of students from Central America and the People's Republic of China increased significantly this year. Among this year's internationals are two graduate students from the Soviet Union and an undergraduate from Ghana.

The orientation for international undergraduates is planned and organized by the International R/O Committee, a group composed of upperclass international students. Zuffante said committee members meet freshmen at the airport and help them make initial adjustments.

"Cultural adjustments are forced on them really quickly," Zuffante said. The extra week of orientation is a big help to the undergraduate international students.

She feels that graduate students don't have the advantages of the undergraduates. "Graduate students are really not as well-catered to because of the diversity of the departments," she said. "[The International Students' Office] tries to supplement their orientation."

Bashar Zeitoon '86, a Palestinian transfer student who voluteers for the International Office, said that the International R/O Committee helps alleviate the loneliness that accompany students faced with major cultural adjustments.

The opportunity to meet other international students "gives them confidence and helps them find their way around," he said. International students often form very close ties with each other in their first week here, he added.

Zeitoon said some students come to the United States as early as May to help in their adjustment. Daily language is a problem at first, but "after a few days, things get better for them," he said. Some people get through their first week quite easily, he continued.

International students are required to score above 575 on the Test Of English as a Foreign Language. Zeitoon and Zuffante agree that international students don't have a language barrier.

The major difficulties international students have to deal with are the lack of graduate housing and visa problems, according to Zuffante. She expressed some concern that there are only two people that deal specifically with the problems of international students. Zeitoon said, "Two people is obviously not enough."

International transfer student orientation started on Aug. 28. Graduate orientation for international students will not start until Sept. 3.