Life on Campus

Three Things I Learned from Starting a Student Organization at UIC

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Written by: Emily from Myanmar

I was not one of those students who became involved on campus as soon as I arrived. As a pre-med student, I already had a lot of academic commitments that used up my time and energy, so at first I didn’t think I had more time and energy to commit to a student organization. When I finally made room for my priorities, I was rejected from a fraternity, and I was given hesitant response from researchers I wanted to work with because I did not have the right experience level. There were so many restrictions being an international student that prevent me from getting involved on campus. I thought that this must be the case for most international students.

Despite my frustrations, support was the one thing that I’ve always had ever since I landed in the U.S., both academically and personally from my family, friends, and advisers. So, I knew that is the one thing I would like to give back to other international students. Therefore, when I was approached with the opportunity to become the President of the new International Students Organization (ISO), I took the chance to learn from my mistakes and make it better. Through the process of starting the club, I learned the following lessons:

1. Be prepared for the prep work.

The steps to getting the organization approved were not easy, however, knowing that I had all the support I needed, I took the chance so I could help other international students. My adviser, Audrey Zenner, was the one who thought of the idea for the student organization and when I came on board with her, we spent a lot of time brainstorming how we could make this organization the best fit for all international students. Audrey then took charge of looking for hard-working and motivated officers for the organization. Then, all three of us officers—President, Vice President and Treasurer—came up with ways in giving a community for all international students.

2. Stick to your beliefs. 

I believe in giving every student a chance to be a part of this organization, which is why we have no requirements and no fees. As an international organization, we do not discriminate against anyone. Students do not need to have good grades, they do not need to have a specific number of credit hours; we just want them to be able to learn new skills, make new friends and also make connections on a professional level. The ISO will not only serve to help students with professional development, it is also to give them a community in which to meet people from their countries and make friends from other countries, as well. Being an international student myself, understanding the feeling of homesickness, of needing someone to talk to are things that motivate me to create this organization.

3. Create a common goal.

Although we want all of our members to gather consistently and have fun, we also want to have something for our members to work towards and make a difference at UIC. Our goal is to fundraise for our end of the semester dinner, which will be open to all international students at UIC. This organization’s work will build something exciting for international students to enjoy. We want a platform for making memories and creating a community on campus

What I want out of this organization is for everyone to feel like they are at home while gaining as much knowledge and experience as one should during their college years. It’s purpose is also for students to have support in their life after graduation as well. I believe the start of this organization will benefit everyone in it, including me.


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