Rich cultural experiences, career coaching and skills workshops await international students in the specialty master’s programs at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
“It’s an inclusive culture with classmates and even just in greeting professors in the hallway, who are always happy to help if you go to them,” says Harsh Doshi, a Master of Science in Information Systems student from India.
He says he has not felt isolated at Maryland Smith, even being so far away from his home country. Here are five things the school does to integrate international students into its close-knit community, starting on the first day of their arrival.
The process starts with an orientation program that includes educational sessions and social activities, including a communications workshop and a diversity and inclusion workshop.
“International students come here many times having never even visited before,” says Amy Swann, director of Specialty Master’s Programs at Maryland Smith. “We want to help them make the adjustment to life in the United States and graduate school as easy as possible.”
She says the initial greeting helps set the tone for the rest of the student journey. “Right after orientation, we often hear from international students how welcomed they feel and how friendly everyone has been,” Swann says.
During the weeks and months that follow, Maryland Smith offers learning opportunities specifically for international students outside their regular coursework.
The school collaborates with the Maryland English Institute on campus to offer several English skill-building workshops in Van Munching Hall. The classes often focus on business communication and are well-received by students.
The Master’s Programs Office also frequently sponsors students to attend leadership development activities and retreats through the Maryland LEAD program. The office also partners with the Specialty Masters Student Association (SMSA) to offer skill-building workshops and other activities several times a semester.
Learning about culture and building a strong community are important parts of the international student experience at Smith. To help new arrivals thrive during their first semester on campus, the Master’s Program Office hosts a fall “conversation series.”
The small-group sessions cover a range of topics, introducing international students to the state of Maryland and U.S. culture in general. Last fall, students learned about the region’s history, sports and U.S. holiday traditions.
Students may also join student-organized regional activities each weekend that include exploring Washington, D.C., volunteer opportunities, trips to amusement parks, outings to sporting events, museum visits and dinner gatherings.
They can travel on weekend trips to East Coast cities like New York, Philadelphia and nearby Annapolis. In the spring, student leaders organize a popular cherry blossom brunch cruise in Washington, D.C., and they host an end-of-semester banquet each fall and spring.
Students can also participate in outdoor activities like camping, hiking and kayaking, thanks to a partnership with the Maryland Adventure Program. Most of these social activities are planned by student clubs and help all specialty master’s students bond as a tight-knit group while making the most of their time in Maryland.
“We want to help them understand the culture and give them the opportunity to ask questions that they might otherwise be hesitant to ask,” Swann says.
Maryland Smith also helps international students manage the job search. Coaches in the Office of Career Services offer their expertise on everything from resume writing to interview preparation.
“The Office of Career Services organizes a lot of activities that help international students interact with all levels of employers,” says Bozhang “Bo” Wan, a Master of Science in Information Systems student from China. “Back in the fall semester, the OCS organized an event that gathered eight to 10 employers on campus and allowed students to participate and talk with those employers in small groups. I’m happy about the resources that the Smith School provides.”
Swann and Michael Marcellino, assistant dean of MBA and Specialty Master’s Programs, host a lunch or dinner for each degree program every semester that offers students a way to share feedback they have about their programs.
Swann says the students who push themselves to get involved in the various activities get a lot out of them.
“The students who are most engaged are really enjoying their time at the Smith School,” she says. “Those who take advantage of all that Maryland Smith and the University of Maryland have to offer are most likely do well and have a positive career outcome. They recognize how critical communications skills are and the importance of cultural awareness.”