International GAs Contribute Global Perspectives

International GAs (top left to right): Jonas Vorbau, Rafaela Rafajlovska, Diana Dzasezeva (bottom left to right) Alanis Obando Caldera, Rafia Shamsi and Giuseppe Capello. Not pictured: George Mensah

Northern Michigan University has welcomed 40 new international students this fall, including exchange program participants and new freshmen, transfers and graduate students. Combined with returning students, the total international enrollment is 88 from 40 countries—the most NMU has had in recent years. While all of these students help to enhance diversity on campus and contribute their unique global perspectives, seven are employed as graduate assistants who actively support NMU faculty in various departments.

Alanis Obando from Nicaragua began as an exchange student at NMU. She spent a year in Marquette in 2019 and admitted there were initial challenges adjusting to the language and cultural differences. Obando had to return home when her visa expired, but she is now back at Northern pursuing a master's degree in business administration. She is also serving as a graduate assistant in the Social Work Department.

“All of the people in Social Work have been so nice,” Obando said. “I'm being mentored by Sarah Carlson right now, and she's been really good as well. She treats me very respectfully and always makes sure I'm doing okay. I'm grateful to have this opportunity to gain valuable work experience here, especially since I can't work at places off campus due to visa restrictions.

“The College of Graduate Studies and Research has been wonderful. I think they really care about their postgraduate students, and that they have a good experience and succeed in their personal and professional goals. And then, of course, I like to call the people at the International Programs office family. They always have answers for any questions or problems international students have, and if not, they will work to find an answer and give you one.”

Director of Graduate Enrollment Management Janelle Taylor said the international graduate students are not the only ones who benefit from being able to work on campus. “We want the perspective that international GAs bring to their departments, and to have them work with other students to make them feel more welcome. We typically have two or three international GAs, so it's nice to see there are now more actively involved.”

The International Programs Office deals primarily with undergraduate students, but communicates with Graduate Studies when international graduate students such as Obando come onto campus. The IPO helps to handle anything international students might need during their time on campus, from admissions to taxes.

“I think what's really important for our office this year is changing the way people see the international students on campus, and that they are a bigger part of campus life,” said Coordinator of International Admissions & Student Services Ellen Doan. “A lot of schools and faculty are happy to have them on campus, but may not consider their potential as a graduate assistant. We want to make sure that they're celebrated and show that they bring positive contributions to the university.”

In addition to Obando, remaining international GAs are listed below along with their home countries and campus work locations:  

Diana Dzasezeva, Latvia - Wrestling

Rafia Farrukh Shamsi, Pakistan - ACAC

George Mensah, Ghana - Math

Rafaela Rafajlovska, Macedonia - Health and Human Performance

Jonas Vorbau, Germany - College Business

Giuseppe Capell, Brazil - Health Human Performance

Find more information on NMU's International Programs Office here and on Graduate Studies and Research here.

Prepared By

Max McCullough
Student Writer

Categories: Around NMU, Strategic Plan