Members of the LU Diplomats club stand at their table at this year's club expo. The club works to help international students feel more at home when they come to Lehigh.(Courtesy of Kenna Wu)

LU Diplomats help to welcome international students

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The LU Diplomats group wants international students to feel more at home on campus.

The student-run organization works alongside Lehigh Admissions to recruit, interview and provide support for prospective international students. By aiding in the admissions and orientation processes, the Diplomats aim to help students adjust to the Lehigh community.

Cedric Wu, ‘17, LU Diplomats president, said the club plays an important role in an international student’s college decision because it guides those who are nervous about attending school abroad. He said the club is immediately comforting to applicants because it allows them to see that current students are looking out for them even before they decide to come to Lehigh.

“We try to make it a smooth process for international students,” Wu said. “We have to help them integrate into a community they may have never been exposed to.”

The first step in the process is a Skype interview, a Diplomat’s first interaction with a prospective student. This allows Lehigh students to help Admissions with the decision process. While a Diplomat may or may not recommend a student, the ultimate decision still lies with the Admissions faculty. Although Admissions has the final say, Wu said the club has more influence in their decision than in the past.

“The club is completely run by students now,” Wu said. “So we’re not under Admissions anymore and we don’t have to look to them for instruction.”

This change, he said, forms a more personal relationship between students and applicants. It takes away the professional feel of an interview and allows applicants to be themselves more than they would otherwise. This means a Diplomat is more familiar with an applicant’s personality and can make a more meaningful decision.

This aspect is something that vice president Maxim Beard, ‘18, said he finds imperative to the decision process. Informal conversations, he said, are crucial because they reveal an applicant’s true self.

Beard, a United Kingdom native who participated in the program as an incoming freshman, joined the organization because of the challenges he faced during his first semester. Making connections to American life was harder than expected, he said, and he wanted to be a source of information for someone else facing similar circumstances.

“It’s easy for Americans to get used to it because it’s not new for them,” Beard said. “But it’s not so easy for students coming from other countries.”

Beard sees the club as a chance to close the gap between domestic and international students. He said language barriers and cultural differences lead students to associate with other students of similar backgrounds. By receiving guidance throughout their first weeks on campus, these students will have more confidence to approach other groups of people.

Diana Garcia, ‘19, joined LU Diplomats to help bring a more diverse student body to Lehigh. Actively encouraging international students to attend Lehigh, she said, increases the selection pool and leads to the best, brightest candidates.

A more diverse community is also one of Wu’s main priorities as president. He believes a renowned international program would help Lehigh gain recognition abroad, which would encourage more international students to attend Lehigh.

“A lot of students don’t really even want to apply to schools overseas because they’re too nervous,” he said. “But if there was a good program in place, then those people would have more confidence in coming to Lehigh.”

He said the LU Diplomats would have helped boost his confidence during the first part of freshman year had he chosen to take advantage of it. His goals would have been easier to see, he said.

“I had a hard time finding my path and figuring out what I wanted to do,” Wu said. “If there was a student who had gone through something similar, I probably would have benefited from listening to how they adjusted.”

Both Wu and Beard describe the club as a work in progress. With more members and improved organizational strategies, they believe the club could have a significant impact on the way diversity is perceived on campus.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to handle,” Wu said. “But when a student is successful, it is definitely rewarding.”

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