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Hillside Chats: Isabella Boutros & Alba Atienza

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Not many students on campus know exactly what the International Assistant Program is about. You see a flyer or a table advertising it, but for some reason it doesn’t gain the attention that other programs like Orientation Leaders get. I sat down with one IA, Isabella, and one of the international students from her cluster group, Alba, to find out more about the program.

Hey guys! So why don’t you introduce yourselves to get us started.

IB: I’m Isabella Boutros, and I’m a junior, and this is my second year as an IA. I’m in the Lynch school studying secondary education and environmental geoscience.

AA: I’m Alba Atienza, I’m an exchange student from Madrid, Spain, and I’m also a junior. I’m in CSOM, and I’ve been here for the year.

So I guess I’ll start with you Isabella, how did you come to be an IA?

IB: Freshman year I wasn’t involved in much, so right before spring break I was walking to class from Mac and saw a table with a bunch of flags. So I went up to the table and started talking to the two students that were there about the IA program. It just sounded like something I would want to do because my dad is from Lebanon and I’ve grown up in a really international family. I also have a big interest in traveling so it’s something I really think I would enjoy. So I applied and got in, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Why do you say that it’s one of the best decisions?

IB: I’ve met some of my best friends, both BC and International students, through this program. We’re separated into small cluster groups, and there are six BC students in that group. We come four days early for orientation in the summer. And before the international students come we do a lot with the IAs on campus. Most of the BC students I didn’t know outside of the program, and we just really get to know each other. And when the international students come you spend the whole year with them and really get to know them, which is the only thing that sucks about being an IA is that you have to see your students leave after a year. But now I have friends all over the world and I know I can go visit them anytime, and I always have somewhere to stay. It’s just so cool, I feel like I’ve learned so much from them.

Awesome! So now on to you Alba, what made you want to study abroad here at BC?

AA: Well I knew I wanted to study abroad, even before starting college. And I chose the U.S. because I wanted an English speaking country, and the universities are better than in other countries. And I chose BC because it was the best school, and people told me that Boston was a great city to study in and live in.

Image via Boston College facebook

Photo courtesy of Boston College\Facebook

So how have things been at BC in general and with the IA program specifically?

AA: It’s been great! This is definitely my home away from home. It’s really overwhelming when you first come in. Like I didn’t know anybody because I was the only person coming here from my university. But then you meet the IAs and all the other international students and it’s just so easy. You don’t really meet that many people in class, and the fact that they [the IAs] give you the opportunity to meet so many people is great, I don’t know what I would have done without them!

IB: She was actually asking me last night, because she might be doing another exchange for a year and she asked “Do you think they’ll have an IA program like this one?”

AA: Yeah because I’m going to another abroad next year in California!

No way! Where?

AA: At UC, I applied to Berkeley, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

That’s awesome!

AA: Yeah, I was talking to some friends who are at different universities, and I don’t think their programs are as good as this one.

So will this experience that you had at BC first with the IA program help you with your experience in California?

AA: Yes, definitely! I’ve learned so much and I’ve changed a lot. I’m a lot more open to people and cultures.

That’s great! So can you tell us a little more about applying to the program and what it entails Isabella?

 IB: So we move in four days early for IA training before the year gets started, and that’s where we learn about what to anticipate from the international students, we learn how to communicate across cultures and to just be sensitive towards that. You don’t have to have traveled to be an IA but we want to make sure everyone understands the differences in cultures and be aware of that when interacting with the students. Once the students get here we meet and eat together, and then they go off for orientation and learn a lot about going to school in the US. We try to do fun things for them like we have a Roggies night, we go on a boat cruise, just things like that. Once that’s over we do little events throughout the semester. There are big events like a Halloween social and a big Thanksgiving dinner. And the cluster groups can do their own events throughout the year, it’s very group dependent.

What’s been your favorite event as a cluster group?

AA: Every event was great, but I loved kayaking through the Charles River!

Very Cool!

IB: A lot of people ask me about the time commitment, and I tell them that the only thing you’re really required to do is to come to training in the summer, and then it’s up to you. You definitely get out of the program what you put into it, but most IAs do put in the time because they want to.

AA: It’s the same for international students too, you get what you put into the program.

So what kind of a student should apply to the program?

IB: Someone who is really interested in learning about new cultures, making new friends, sharing the American experience with someone, and just being open to have fun!

AA: And definitely be committed to it!

IB: Yeah it’s really important that you are available for the international students, because they rely on the guidance.

If you’re interested in applying to be an IA, click here. The Deadline is March 24th, and once you submit an application you also sign up for an interview, and once all that is done results will be sent out the week of April 7th.

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