Jonathan Kratz is the Director of International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) at James Madison University. Focusing on international student success, Jonathan has been with JMU since 2011.
What steps would you encourage an international student to take in order to best get involved upon arriving to campus?
A key aspect of a good college experience is connecting with other students. Attending Transitions, the international student orientation program, is a great way to connect with other students. In addition to Transitions, students should plan to attend many of the programs and activities around campus for the first two to three weeks of school.
How does JMU support international students upon arrival?
Many of our international students fly into Washington DC, and the Center for Global Engagement provides a bus to transport new students to campus. JMU provides a wonderful week-long orientation program to prepare students for college life, including academics, resources on campus, ways to get involved, and connecting students.
In the past, what activities/groups have been popular amongst international students upon arriving to the campus?
During Transitions, new international students will connect with LINKers, upperclassman focused on supporting new international students as mentors for the first year. There are a number of student organizations such as the Chinese Student & Scholars Association (CSSA), International Student Organization (ISO), Korea Student Association (KSA), and Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). There are also a number of clubs related to academic majors. All are very popular and a great way to connect with others with similar passions and interests!
What does international student success look like to you?
For me, international student success involves two aspects: academics and engagement. Students (all students, not just international) need to find success in the classroom and with their academics. College is for learning and students need to do well on their course work, so they can complete their degree and be prepared for the next step in their life. Engagement with this new culture is also critical to success. Learning about the culture, making friends with U.S. students, engaging in campus programs and activities, and traveling helps you feel more comfortable with your environment and helps you have a greater understanding of the culture, which leads to success.
Typically, what are the most difficult adjustments for international students upon arriving to campus and how does JMU help enable students to make these adjustments?
The most difficult adjustments for international students when arriving on campus are figuring out how things work at JMU (and in the U.S.) and communicating. It takes time to learn a new culture, how things work, and how best to communicate with others. Thankfully, JMU provides a week-long orientation program to prepare students for their time at JMU. The first few days of the orientation program are specifically for international students. The ISSS staff assists with transportation to campus, leads workshops on culture adjustment and academics, connects you with a student mentor (LINKer), and provides resources to help along the way.
If you were talking to an international student who was considering applying to JMU, why would you tell him or her to make the decision come to Harrisonburg?
JMU has excellent academics! Professors are knowledgeable, supportive to students, and friendly. JMU will prepare you for your career. Many of our alumni share how much they loved the campus environment, the friendships they developed, the faculty that mentored them, the clubs they joined and lead, and the beautiful campus. You will find a home at JMU!