International program encourages campus involvement


Courtesy of INTO Instagram

INTO members pose for selfie.

47 countries. One campus.

Marshall University’s INTO Center has been home to international students from throughout the world since its establishment in 2013. Though many assume the title is an acronym, the director of student experience, Jim Clagg, laughed as he explained its meaning and what the INTO Center does for  students.

“It is not an acronym for anything. INTO doesn’t stand for anything, it is more of a mindset of INTO getting into the university,” Clagg said. “We help students internationally who want to come here and study. We provide a conduit to help the students learn and to provide extra support to the students who come here.”

With multiple pathways for the students to choose from in order to find what route fits them best, INTO offers its international students an opportunity to improve their English and learn about american culture while also focusing on their studies.

The program encourages international students to explore a new way of life by getting involved on campus, going out on excursions to different places in the city and by hosting their own events for domestic students to come interact with them.

Clagg highlighted how he wants international students to understand that Marshall welcomes them and hope they feel like they are part of the herd, but INTO is also to help domestic students become more culturally aware of other countries in the world.

“The core of it is we want to help our student body base from America become more culturally competent, and giving them the opportunity to do that through working with a new international student is amazing,” Clagg said. “And we want to provide an opportunity for our international students to practice their English and learn about true American culture because as much as we can teach language and different things in the classroom you don’t learn it until you’re with someone in the real world.”

Tessy Arinze, a graduate accounting student, came to Marshall through the INTO Center from Nigeria in January 2018. She recalls hearing about the program and believing that it may be too good to be true.

“I was looking for a school that was affordable for me and that would be worthwhile for me. I wanted something where I can benefit from everything, learn English get my graduate degree, and get a good job,” Arinze said. “Someone was talking to me about INTO and I was just like ‘what is that?’ and they described the program to me and I said ‘that’s okay but what’s the catch?’ I didn’t think it could sound so good and there be no catch.”

Arinze plans on graduating and eventually going back to Nigeria to start her own accounting firm. She says that she just needs experience in order to achieve her dream and that the INTO Center has provided her with a lot of help.

“I’ve learned so much since coming here to be honest. Most especially my English has been great, my writing skills have improved, everything has improved,” Arinze said. “The help that we get is my favorite. With INTO, they guide you and at the end of the day you can always come back to the learning center and they help you and guide you.”

The INTO Center also has become a place frequented by Marshall University President Gilbert, as the president will go and personally greet and take pictures with the students when they come to Marshall. Gilbert said that he wants the students to feel welcome when they come to Marshall because for many of them, it is the first time they have left their country.

“I want [the international students] to feel welcome to the campus,” Gilbert said. “Some of them it’s the first time in our country, some of them it’s not. I tell them that many of our students may not ever have a chance to go to their country so they have a chance to introduce your culture and your country to our students by being here.”

Gilbert also spoke of how it is important for international students and domestic students to interact because he said he believes that these students have more in common than they may realize.

“I think it’s important for us to see that we may have differences but there are also commonalities, and that’s the great thing about having diversity,” Gilbert said.

Clagg said that one of his favorite parts of the program is seeing the progress that is made so quickly from some of the students that know only a little English when they first arrive on Marshall’s campus.

“We do get students that come with an incredibly low level of English. They will come here and they are shy and standoffish and unable to hold a conversation and unable to ask for what they need,” Clagg said. “And through working with them three, four, five, six semesters, they are holding a conversation with you and you notice that two years ago they could speak hardly any English.”

The INTO Center also provides different programs to help students learn English and learn about the culture such as conversation partners. This is a system where domestic students who want to learn about a country or a country’s language are paired with international students so they can both learn something and build relationships while doing so. The Center also organizes different events on campus in order to help domestic students see that they are welcome in the INTO Center and they are encouraged to get to know the international students.

Arinze agreed that the INTO Center is welcoming, and hopes that students know the INTO Center is a safe place.

“I would say this is a safe place for international students,” Arinze said. “I say this because there are certain benefits you get with INTO that you don’t get through Marshall. INTO guides you, it’s just a fantastic and awesome place to be.”

Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected]