International students are a demographic of the Montclair State University population that is often overlooked. Many students come from all around the world to study abroad here for a semester, including from different places in the United States.
Although there are many clubs on campus open to all students, international students didn’t always have a club specifically for them.
The International Student Organization (ISO) was originally formed around the spring of 2008. Marie-Esther Buh is now the current president of the newly restored ISO. She says that ISO was one of the biggest organizations on campus years ago, but with time it seemed to die down. Eventually, it was forgotten about.
ISO was reinstated at the end of the fall 2018 semester by Buh, who is a senior English major from Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. Buh works at the Office of International Engagement, which helps to bring in international students and works with domestic students who want to study abroad.
Buh began the process of bringing back ISO and giving it a fresh new start. The executive board also includes Buh’s coworker Shannon Donaghy, a junior English major who is the secretary and the only domestic student on the board. Shahrzad Koofe is the vice president, and Vera Yapi is the treasurer. ISO also has other students handling social media, publicity and programming.
Buh says the main purpose of bringing back ISO was to create a safe space for international students; a space where they could meet and form relationships with the community.
“I wanted to give a face to [Montclair State’s] diversity,” Buh said. “Very popular word, not enough presentation.”
Through ISO, Buh wants to show the international diversity on campus and not just the diversity among domestic students. Students come from all around the world, bringing their cultures with them and becoming a part of Montclair State’s identity.
Donaghy explained this is something ISO wants to encourage and share with the campus community.
“I think it’s really important for people to know we’re open to everybody, not just international students,” Donaghy said. “The main mission is to exchange cultures, so we’re open to domestic students.”
On Wednesday Jan. 30, ISO held its first event of the semester. They hosted a meet and greet for all members to get to know each other and meet the executive board. Members met in a classroom in University Hall and played introductory and trivia games.
As the members introduced themselves, they learned about the different countries the other members come from, like Morocco, France, the Dominican Republic and Afghanistan.
Members also participated in a game where a ball of yarn was thrown and each of them had to introduce themselves. They would hold a piece of the yarn and throw it to someone else in the room. At the end of the game, the yarn was intertwined, and it symbolized the connection everyone has despite cultural differences and what country they come from.
International students are excited this organization is back up and running. More importantly, they’re happy to know they have found a safe space and can meet people who can relate to them.
“I would love to keep meeting with them and become closer friends,” said Juan Ureno, a graduate student from the Dominican Republic. “Maybe help them if they need something from me and reach out to them if I need something from them.”
ISO wants to emphasize that they want to be an organization where members help each other out and form good relationships. They don’t just want to be a club that hosts fundraisers and aren’t close with their members.
They want these relationships to be meaningful and bring comfort to international students. ISO also wants to give domestic students a taste of different cultures right on campus and give them a chance to form meaningful relationships with international students.
ISO plans to host more events throughout the spring semester that are open to the entire campus community. These events include an international food sale, a talent show/cultural festival and International Week.