Riding on the airplane flight from South Africa for his freshman year, Nicholas J. J. Kogl ’13 says he did not know what to expect. He wasn’t sure his style would fit into Harvard’s undergraduate community considering what he had read online and seen in the movies.
“I didn’t know how they would take the smoking,” he says. “I have nine piercings and I dyed my hair black.”
Kogl, the only male South African in his class, says he did not know of a campus community to which he could relate.
“I didn’t know how accepting of me people would be.” He says he thought, “I’m going to be an outcast.”
Today, Kogl is on the social board of the Woodbridge Society of International Students, where students can recall the common fears many of them faced journeying to Cambridge.
An entire community of Harvard students—695 undergraduates or approximately 10 percent of the student body—arrive from abroad to study at the College.
For these students, there are the usual adjustments to the new social environment. But many create their own community on campus with other international students who understand what it means to come with significant cultural differences.
A COMMON EXPERIENCE
For many of the incoming international students, the Freshman International Program—a three-day pre-orientation workshop sponsored by the Woodbridge Society—is their first experience on campus.
The information taught in FIP regarding documentation and how to adjust to a different school system will follow international students throughout their college careers. Already, most of them have passed through the lengthy process of securing a visa, been required to demonstrate sufficient motive to go back to their country of origin, and secured a sufficient amount of money to pay for the college they plan to attend.
But for many, the relationships formed during this period with fellow international students provide the lasting impression on students.
“It all starts with FIP,” says Nina C. Buchmann ’13 from Germany.
Buchmann, a member of the Woodbridge Outreach Committee, says that FIP establishes a community even before the entire freshman class arrives on campus.
According to Dominik Nieszporowski ’12, president of Woodbridge, the organization is concerned that FIP limits international students’ interaction with their non-participating peers.
“It might be more of an issue for FIP than other pre-orientation programs,” he says.