Orientation International Students
Welcome to the United States, Santa Barbara, and Westmont College!
Whether you are a U.S. citizen but grew up in another country, are of a nationality outside of the U.S. and have never been here before, or somewhere in between – we are thrilled to welcome you to the Westmont community.
Your Orientation team is eager to meet you. We have been praying for you, and we cannot wait until August 20th.
As you prepare for your adventure here, make sure to check out the Prepare Tabs below as well as the Before You Arrive page.
As you prepare for your adventure here be sure to review the To Do Items on the Before You Arrive page and information specifically for International, TCK and MK students in the Prepare tabs that follow.
One of our goals for Orientation is that you will make a successful transition into college life and begin to feel known and cared for in the Westmont Community. Transitioning well takes time and preparation. Be sure to see the info regarding the college transition below.
Also take note of the First Year Experience page to whet your appetite for the different opportunities we provide for our new students.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of your support team members prior to your arrival.
We are thrilled you are coming to Westmont.
The Orientation Team
MEET OUR STUDENT AMBASSADORS
Graduating May 2021
From: This question is always a little difficult to answer as an international student, but I grew up in California and Oregon, as well as Chile and Vietnam.
Hobbies: I absolutely love traveling so any chance to take a weekend trip anywhere I will go, and I also enjoy playing soccer and volleyball for fun.
Graduating May 2022
From: I’m from a quiet town called Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. I lived there most of my life as well as a few years in Pretoria. However, I am currently living in Cape Town.
Hobbies: Rugby is a sport that has influenced my life for the better and has helped grow and shape me into the man I am. That being said, If I’m not in the classroom I’ll mostly be on the field training or in the gym putting in work. However, I do believe in balance. So, as much as it's work hard, it's also play hard and I always make time for my friends.
Economics and Business Major
Graduating Dec 2020
From: I am from South Africa and I grew up in Pietermaritzburg.
Hobbies: I am an avid football (soccer) fan and enjoy keeping up with my favourite team Chelsea FC. On weekends you are likely to find me watching various highlights, shouting offside every second minute and going on a fuss about how so and so should’ve done this or that. If I’m not with friends I enjoy the odd documentary here and there. These range from topics on Economics to stuff about climate change and so on.
Information for International, TCK & MK students
International students are invited to participate in both International Orientation and New Student Orientation.
International Student Orientation begins on Tuesday, August 20th and goes through Wednesday, August 21st. All international students are required to attend; this should be an extremely helpful time for you all!
Directly following International Student Orientation is New Student Orientation, Thursday, August 22nd - Sunday, August 25th. All new students are required to attend.
Your Support Team
|Sarah Sagredo, International Student Services Liaison/Assistant to the Vice President for Student Life||
Sarah is your contact for all Student Life related support, immigration related matters and is here to help all International Students (International/TCK/MK) in their adjustment and success at Westmont.
Be sure to check out the International Student Services website for more information about life at Westmont and events planned.
|Mike McKinniss, Director of Admissions||Mike is able to help you through the admissions process and your transition to Westmont.|
|Jason Cha, Director of Intercultural Programs||Jason oversees the Intercultural Programs at Westmont, of which GISA (Global & International Student Association) is one! Feel free to contact him with any questions or concerns you might have--or just to talk! He really wants to support you.|
|Angela D'Amour, Dean of Student Engagement||Angela directs Orientation, oversees Campus Life, and is deeply concerned about your well being and growth as a person as Westmont.|
Your Resident Directors (RDs):
|They are here to support you. They really want to get to know YOU. Talk to them; they may even treat you to coffee or tea!|
|Your Resident Assistants (RAs):||Westmont is known for its community. The RA process is very selective, and your RA's truly want to get to know you!|
|If you're interested in studying abroad -- whether that be for a semester, or Mayterm, the Off Campus Programs Office can help you plan and prepare.|
In the community:
Tim & Kim Notehelfer, Directors of International Students Incorporated.
|They oversee the International Students Inc. (ISI) chapter in SB, a Christian ministry to university-aged international students in the US.|
So it’s that time, and you’re off for the grand adventure of college. Before you arrive, we would like to suggest a few areas for you to think about and prepare for as you come.
Read, read and then read some more!
This is what you will spend a great deal of time doing in college. Most of you will come with a limited ability to sustain active reading for a long period of time. It takes practice and discipline.
You can ease into the transition by doing some reading over the summer. While it might not be the same type of reading as the academic material you will cover in college, it will get you practicing.
Also, you must be an active reader. Ask yourself questions about the material while you are reading. Take notes and highlight. Look over the whole chapter to get the main ideas before you read it for detail. These little things can make a big difference.
The "Free" Time Trap
“Free” time seems to be in abundance at college. Most of you will only be in class for about 10–12 hours per week. With few assignments between occasional tests and papers, it seems you have a lot of free time. But this is one of the biggest traps for college students.
Professors can expect that you will spend two hours outside of class doing homework for every hour spent in class. If you do the math, that means you should be spending between 20 and 24 hours each week studying. Most of that time is spent — you guessed it — reading!
So think of this as your job and set up a schedule. Use your time during the day and don’t expect to get all your studying done at night. It’s an adjustment, but you can do it!
These choices are numerous and all affect your success as a student. To drink or not to drink is one. While Westmont has established policies prohibiting the use of alcohol, the choice and the responsibility is yours. You have all seen television shows and movies that portray alcohol as part of college. It can seem you are missing out if partying is not part of your college experience. What the movies don’t show is the physical, mental, spiritual and academic toll drinking can take on a student. Most Westmont students choose to have a fun and fulfilling experience without alcohol.
This is just one of the many decisions you’ll face. How much sleep do you need to get up for your eight o’clock class? What kinds of things will you do to grow spiritually? It might help to think through these questions before you arrive so you’re ready to set the direction for some of the decisions you will face.
Who Me, Homesick?
Many new students will miss home at some point in the first year . For some it will be missing your parents, for some missing your siblings (can you believe that actually might happen?!), and for others it might be missing friends or even pets. This is healthy, but hard. Schedule regular times to connect with family and friends from home through phone calls or video chats. And know that these feelings will ebb and flow throughout the year.
"Old" vs. New Friends
Making friends will be harder for some than for others. If you’re not as outgoing, making friends will be tiring and scary, but if you stretch yourself to meet people from the beginning, it will happen.
For others, it may be hard to let go of high school friends. It is important to remember that it probably took years for those friendships to develop, so your college friendships often won’t be like them for at least a year. It will be tempting to run to those close friendships from high school, but if you do, you won’t be allowing your new ones to grow. High school friendships will change, and some will fade away, but these are the seasons of friendship. If you’re prayerful, patient and flexible, new and lasting friendships can and will develop.
Who Am I?
Going to college means starting over. Those of you who were good students in high school may get your first C on a test.
So who are you? Those of you who were well known and were involved in everything will face a situation where you are one of 350 new students — you have to start over. Those of you who were varsity basketball players may not make the team, and those of you who were honors students may get average grades at Westmont.
Be patient during this time of transition. God will be stretching your old definition of what it means to be you, and if you are open and flexible, you may be surprised and happy with the new you you see on graduation day.
Below are specific things for you to do before you arrive at Westmont:
Students attending Westmont College with an F-1 student visa are required to maintain adequate health insurance coverage while studying in the USA. There are no insurance requirements set forth by the US Department of State, however Westmont College, like most colleges, requires you to purchase insurance for the full duration of your stay in the United States.
While Westmont does provide basic health care to all students at its on-campus clinic, for broken bones, x-rays and major medical emergencies and visits to the dentist, you will be referred out to a local health care provider, where you would need to provide evidence of your own insurance. This is particularly important because parents are living out of the country, and it's especially critical if you are an athlete or have a heath condition requiring ongoing medical supervision.
Below are student health insurance programs that have been considered by families of international, TCK and MK students. Please note that Westmont College does not endorse any particular company and that this information is provided as a courtesy for international students needing to purchase insurance.
Once you have secured insurance, please email Sarah Sagredo, International Student Services Liaison, with a copy of your health insurance prior to your arrival on campus.
Ok! You are now an official Westmont college student!
With you specifically in mind, we have created a list of resources at Westmont, as well as websites, that we hope you will find useful, practical, and helpful. Please click on the links below to explore them.
If you still have questions, don't be shy – ask! We would love to answer them – and also, get to know you!
Helpful Resources at Westmont
- Westmont's Programs & Resources
- Exploring Santa Barbara
- 101 Things to Do at Westmont Before You Graduate
- Did You Know...? | Westmont History
- GISA: Westmont's Global and International Student Association
- Summer storage
- What are other current students at Westmont doing?
Helpful Websites for International Students
- ISI (International Students Incorporated), a Christian outreach to international students. There is a great chapter in SB.
- Denizen: An online magazine whose mission is to support TCKs'. (GISA's former president, Andy Wood, particularly recommends Steph Yui's article, "A Third Culture's Guide to College.)
A Welcome from Rachel, GISA President
Hi! My name is Heesu, but many people around campus know me as Rachel! I was born in Korea with a Korean father and a Korean-American mother, giving me unique experiences from both American and Korean perspectives. College is a challenging and formative time for many people and I was no exception. Westmont had me face questions about my identity, faith, and beliefs. However, I'm so grateful that I did not have to face thesse challenges alone at Westmont. I am blessed to have met dedicated professors, devoted staff, and life-long friends to guide me through my personal journey. We would now like to extend a similar hand of guidance to you!
One thing that Santa Barbara is known for is its outstanding fresh fruits and vegetables. There are multiple Farmers Markets throughout week, where farmers from neighboring towns come to sell their fresh produce, flowers, nuts, dairy, and meat. For a schedule of weekly Market locations, please click here.
Additionally, there are multiple grocery stores in Santa Barbara.
Because you will most likely be taking advantage of the Westmont shuttle service (due to Santa Barbara County regulation on parking permit privileges on campus), let us categorize nearby grocery stores by shuttle stop location:
By Shuttle Stop #1 & #2: Vons
By Shuttle Stop #3: Tri-County Produce (Arguably the freshest and cheapest produce in town. A 20-25 minute walk from shuttle stop #3)
By Shuttle Stop #4 & #5: Ralph's and Rite Aid
For a link to the Shuttle route and schedule, please click here.
When you arrive, you will most likely want to find a bank! In the Santa Barbara area, the bank that is most "international-user friendly" (ie. has locations in other countries and offers all international banking services) is Bank of America.
Here are a few banking locations close to campus:
Bank of the West: 1036 State Street (805) 564-4466
Bank of America: 1096 Coast Village Rd. (805) 695-8835
Union Bank: 1106 Coast Village Rd. (805) 963-7511
Wells Fargo Bank: 1482 E. Valley Rd. (805) 969-3242
Many Westmont students bank at one of the above-mentioned institutions. Bank of America and Union Bank have locations that are conveniently located within walking distance of Shuttle stop #1. Bank of the Westmont has an ATM on campus in the upstairs Kerr Student Center and is a short walk from Shuttle stop #6 (The Westmont shuttle runs daily. For a complete Shuttle schedule, please click here.)
Note: While Wells Fargo does not have a branch within walking distance of a Shuttle stop location, Wells Fargo has an ATM machine just inside of Vons, off of Shuttle stop #1.
Sarah graduated with an Economics/Business and Sociology double major. She is a Third Culture Kid (TCK), and has lived in France, Morocco, California, and Colorado. She hopes you have an excellent and transformational time at Westmont.
Tips and Tricks for the non-American living in America:
- Culture shock is a real thing. I still don't like eating cereal because the cereal aisles in American stores are too overwhelming and I can't decide.
- Skype/FaceTime is amazing!!
- You will feel misunderstood at one point or another (although probably at many points). This is normal and don't be afraid to ask questions.
- You may not be able to visit your family during breaks like everyone else, but that's why you create a new family at Westmont! (Ex: spend Thanksgiving with your roommate's family)
- Don't pretend to act American when you're not. Yes, it may seem nice to fit in for a while, but you're ignoring an important part of who you are.
- Visit your professors during their office hours; I know it's cliché, but they really do care. They'll be more understanding if you reach out for help.
- Get to know upperclassmen international/TCK/MK students. Mentoring can be really valuable.
- You will get ignorant questions. Know that people aren't trying to offend you. They may be genuinely interested in getting to know you and your culture.
- It's normal to take a while to get adjusted to American culture. If you don't have it all figured out within the first semester, don't stress.
- YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! There are other students at Westmont who are having similar experiences.
Kailie graduated with an Art major. She is a MK and spent the majority of her childhood living outside of Tokyo, Japan. The latter part of her high school years were spent in Hawaii. Because of her unusual background, she understands the challenges of thriving cross culturally and wants fellow international students to know that although those challenges never go away, you learn to utilize your different background and experiences to enrich the lives of others, as well as your own.
Being an international student at a school in the US such as Westmont really has changed the way I see myself in terms of my racial and cultural identities. I am a ¾ Japanese - ¼ European TCK (third cultural kid) who was born and raised in Japan until the age of sixteen, spent the three remaining years of high school in Hawai’i and eventually made my way here to Santa Barbara for college. Because of my unusual background, I often had people ask me questions such as “Where are you from?” “How can you speak English?” and in extreme cases, “What are you?” The fact of the matter is that for most of us international students, the answers to these questions are often really complicated and long. Especially during Orientation week and the beginnings of each semester, I remember being so exhausted from having to repeat my answers so many times. I wanted people to know where I was from, my ethnic background, as well as my cultural identity but I needed to find a better time to share my side of the story. A joke a close friend of mine (who also shares a similar background as me) and I have is that now whenever people at Westmont ask us where we are from, we give the name of the US state that we are affiliated with; in my case, I say Hawai’i. We do this to eliminate the long explanation we always have to give when we say we’re from another country. I’m not encouraging people to cut their life stories short or lock their identities into a small box, but I think it is important to save those conversations for the people who actually want to get to know you and nurture long-lasting relationships with you. When I discovered the people who possessed these qualities, I knew that I found not only a group of friends that I would keep in touch with long after college, but also people who would genuinely care for and accept my identity.
Here are a couple more tips that helped me with being an international student here at Westmont:
- Homesickness is normal for any international student. In fact, I guarantee that there are plenty of national students your first year that are going through the same thing. Don’t be afraid of meeting new people and getting involved with extra-curricular activities. It’s a great way to keep busy and become more involved with your school. With the support system of people you’ll eventually encounter, you’ll be able to better handle homesickness.
- As an international student, I personally dealt with cultural and language barriers. With English being my second language, of course I had some reservations about being able to keep up in class and succeeding academically. I would advise you to go in and talk to your professors during their office hours. Westmont really takes pride in hiring a world-class faculty that genuinely cares about students in and outside of the classroom. Get to know them and share your concerns. They will do everything they can to fairly accommodate you.
- Lastly, don’t let living in the states change who you are; embrace your individual culture and heritage! Part of the reason why Westmont recruits international students is because it wants to spread a global awareness that goes beyond the boundaries of the US. Each and every one of you has a unique story and culture to share. I made the mistake of trying to fit into the American culture and ended up compromising values that I grew up learning in my Japanese culture. Since this revelation, I continue to live out my life in the multi-cultural manner that defines who I am!
Andy is a graduate of Westmont and an English major. He grew up in Ometepec, Mexico, as a missionary kid. He loved his childhood. While living in Santa Barbara has been very different than he was accustomed to, he has grown to appreciate and love the culture and place of Westmont. He’s so happy you’re here.
Things that could help you that helped me—
- Be yourself! Don't be afraid to share stories about your life and your culture; most people love hearing about your experience.
- Learn to love what you can do here. Sometimes it's easy to see all the things you miss about your home or your culture, and you forget about the amazing opportunities that are right in front of you.
- Get involved. It's really easy to isolate yourself because you don't know what you really want to do, but if just get involved in something you can meet people that you normally wouldn't have and you won't have time to be homesick. If you don't like what you're involved in, you can quit.
- Seize the moments when you feel at home. There will be moments with people when you talk about home or see something that reminds you of home. Share them with you friends; it will make you feel better.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. There are answers.
- If you need it, get help! There are faculty, staff and students who care, but they can't care if they don't know. So tell them!
Vi graduated with a Psychology major. She grew up in Vietnam and spent her high school years at Wheaton Academy in Illinois. Vi would love to meet more new international students on Westmont campus and have yummy food from all around the world with them.
One thing I wish I knew before coming here was how to prepare to deal with situations where I have to be very independent. I was aware of the fact that the US would be a different kind of environment, but I was not mentally prepared. As a result, I had a slightly big culture shock my first and second year being in America. With the help of those around me, though, I was able to cope and be more independent as I learned from my experiences.
Also, it was really helpful for me to have mentors who could help me when I'm homesick or when I need advice on something. Even now when I'm at Westmont, I have a mentor who is a professor on campus and I can talk to her about any thing!
One last thing to note is that I keep in touch with my family back home so that when I'm homesick, I call them and talk to them and it's really great to just be able to hear their voices. It's good to also know what's going on back home even when I'm not there.