Core Principle #1: An international student is a complete and complex person, whose experience and environment can form and inform the center of a program
Core Principle #2: To be an international student is a courageous undertaking that usually involves sacrifice
Core Principle #3: Principia’s history places the institution in a position of leadership, and therefore a position of responsibility, in the international student programming field in the United States
ISPaSO’s programming is obsessively student-centered and stubbornly maintains a stance that international students have original – not derivative – lives and identities. As such, our view of what an excellent international student experience should be is not based on what a “traditional” student experience is expected to be. As the complete and complex people that international students necessarily are, they form the location, the center, from which ISPaSO develops programs.
Our programs include:
As soon as an international student is admitted, ISPaSO supports them through the process of enrolling at Principia College. For those who are outside the U.S., this typically includes applying for a student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If the admitted student is enrolling at Principia from a U.S. institution, the process involves transferring their SEVIS record to Principia. We provide students with the information and documents required to successfully complete either process. In addition to visa-related information, we also advise students regarding traveling to Principia.
International students arrive before the beginning of the semester for orientation activities. We organize rides to pick them up from the airport. Before they arrive, we furnish their rooms with room essentials, such as toiletries, beddings, desk lamps, etc. After the arrival period, new international students begin their Pre-Orientation activities. During this period, students get necessary information and tools to prepare them for success in the United States. Activities include applying for a social security number, applying for a U.S. bank account, and registering in Glacier (a non-resident alien tax compliance system). They also learn about the education culture in the U.S. and how elements of it might be experienced at Principia. New international students also get an opportunity to consider how their time at Principia can prepare them for career success. Pre-Orientation also includes a trip to St. Louis where students learn how to use public transportation. The program is designed as a combination of short lectures, group discussions, and hands-on activities.
Immediately after Pre-Orientation, students get a few days of “self-orientation.” This is a period without any scheduled programs, designed to allow students time to rest from Pre-Orientation activities and also seek out the things that are most important to them. Long walks around the campus, student employment, meeting current students staying on campus for break, appointments with a coach or a professor – these are some of the activities that students individually undertake during self-orientation. It is also an opportunity for them to make uninterrupted calls home at times that make sense for them, depending on time-zone differences. Immediately following self-orientation is Welcome Week, after which the semester begins.
During the first five weeks of the semester, ISPaSO holds weekly 1-hour sessions with the new cohort of international students to cover a variety of topics. Dubbed ISPaSO Success Series, these onboarding sessions are designed to place new international students on even firmer ground. Unlike during Pr-Orientation and Welcome Week where students are learning about what their experience is likely to be in theory, the Success Series program happens in the context of new students experiencing studies, work, and life at Principia, making the information provided much more relevant and sometimes immediately applicable. In addition to pre-determined topics, these sessions serve as a touchpoint where students can bring any questions or seek support in any area.
Enrollment of international students is regulated by several government agencies, primarily the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) administers the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). To enroll international students on an F-1 visa, the college must be SEVP-certified and must remain in compliance with relevant regulations to maintain certification. The college prepares and submits a petition for recertification every 2-3 years. Some of the compliance expectations include providing specific reports and undertaking certain activities within the college’s SEVIS portal. To remain in compliance, ISPaSO provides guidance to students as well as other sectors of the college on matters that pertain to enrollment and work authorization for international students. We also provide guidance on re-entry into the U.S. for international students traveling outside the United States.
For students intending to engage in off-campus employment, ISPaSO provides guidance on work authorization to help students maintain their status. ISPaSO reviews and approves as appropriate requests for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and provides recommendations in SEVIS for eligible students applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT).