International first-year students gather on campus a week early for Grinnell’s International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP).

“IPOP helps international and global nomad students find their feet on campus,” says Karen Edwards, associate dean and director of international student affairs. “Our goal is to help them be ready to fully participate in New Student Orientation, starting Friday evening.”

 “IPOP incorporates a lot of play,” says Larry Boateng Asante ’17, who attended it in 2013 and is from Accra, Ghana. “It was fascinating to interact with people from other countries and see their views of college and the world.”

At the week’s close, each IPOP participant receives a grab bag filled with items brought to Grinnell by their international and global nomad classmates. Each student is ask to bring 15 small items from home to give away. It’s another tangible way to connect with people across cultures.

IPOP participants get to know one another in groups of ten, called “amigos” — Spanish for friends. IPOP student leaders, returning students selected and trained for this role, take their amigos on campus tours and support activities throughout the week. Amigos also meet for several activities during the fall semester.

International students get to know each other in an exerciseAsante says, “IPOP prepared me for what goes on inside the college. It made me aware of the numerous resources available to Grinnell students and how best they can be utilized. Without IPOP, I probably wouldn’t have survived my first semester. I learned how the education system works here and how the faculty interacts with students. The flexibility in the education system here gives you an all-around education.”

The four-day program provides a wide variety of fun and useful activities. These include practical help with immigration and regulatory needs that are unique to students from abroad. Among other things, IPOP participants

  • Open bank accounts;
  • meet their Friends of International Students community host;
  • apply for their Social Security card;
  • navigate the new world of a liberal arts college and U.S. academic culture;
  • share experiences in anticipation of  cultural differences they might encounter;
  • explore the town Grinnell by attending a barn dance at the Lang Farm and competing in a community  scavenger hunt.

Larry Boateng Asante ’17 is undeclared but intends to major in computer science. He’s from Accra, Ghana.

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