NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Like many just beginning life at college, first-year student Anusha Gupta was nervous. For Gupta, though, last fall didn’t just mark her first time on campus.
It was her first time in the United States.
“I was obviously as lost as any freshman on this huge campus,” said Gupta. “I didn’t know where the resources were. And I felt the culture shock that people used to say I might face – I didn’t know the common slang and ways of communicating here.”
Research suggests that the first-year experience for international students is crucial to success at college. Now a sophomore, the New Delhi native has settled into a psychology major and even wants to write a few novels on the side.
Gupta credits RU-FIT, or Rutgers First-year International Transition, a one-credit mandatory course designed to aid international students enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick to successfully transition to life at Rutgers and in the United States.
The course, taught by Rutgers juniors and seniors – many of whom come from other countries themselves – connects students with Rutgers resources and promotes engagement with others in and outside the classroom.
“RU-FIT made me aware of the large international student body at Rutgers and the organizations that are ready to assist me,” she said.
According to a FOX Business report released Monday, Rutgers is the 14th most diverse campus in the United States.
Some 26% of the student body is Asian, 7.2% is "students of color" and 13.1% are Hispanic, according to the report.
During the 2015-2016 school year, undergraduate students hailed from 63 different countries, with 7.2% of students coming from an international background.
The numbers show why the Rutgers First-Year Internation Transition course is so vital.
Anu Gupta, assistant dean of International Academic Success at Rutgers Global, collaborated with faculty and staff across Rutgers to create this course with a clear intention.
“The ultimate goal of RU-FIT is to assure preparedness by helping students to understand what it means to academically succeed at Rutgers,” she said.
But academic success can differ across cultures, and classroom norms can vary. RU-FIT's instructors demystify the university’s expectations, including Rutgers’ Academic Integrity Policy, a policy that outlines how to properly cite other works or contributors and violations for plagiarism.
“I was aware of academic integrity through the module we were required to complete before coming to Rutgers, but this course further explained expectations and consequences – and also made us aware of the honor pledge,” said Gupta.
Time management and study skills are other important aspects of succeeding at college.
Gupta said that RU-FIT helped her hone better time management skills. Instructors taught her make a schedule or timetable for the upcoming week or for finals and provided tips, such as dividing time among subjects and learning professors’ office hours.
Study techniques like active listening were also reviewed to help students better retain information and prepare for exams.
While much of what she learned helped her to navigate campus life, the course also helped her to build her self-confidence and form friendships in a new country by encouraging classroom participation and assigning students to deliver presentations.
“Honestly, this was the first class where I began answering questions and participating in class,” she said. “The instructor provided a light and informal environment that encouraged students to respond – it was also a great place to make friends and help each other.”
“I believe that most international students face similar problems that I faced when I first came here, and RU-FIT will guide them in transitioning to college life in a completely different country.”