Suffolk staff discuss initiatives for study abroad, international students

Suffolk University’s Diversity and Inclusion Council teamed up with the Center for International Programs & Services (CIPS) on Feb. 19 to learn how the university is accommodating international students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Dina Singh, a Diversity Peer Educator at Suffolk, the council’s purpose is to “create a space where clubs and organizations can meet to learn and discuss how to promote diversity and inclusion within the Suffolk community.”

Gregory Jabaut has been the director for the Center for International Programs & Services since May  2019. He provided an in-depth look at what the program is doing in order to ensure the best experience and support for study abroad and international students.

Having experience abroad himself, Jabaut expressed how important and rewarding it can be to travel as a student. 

“These are formative experiences where identity… our notions of who we are just change and transform,” said Jabaut. 

While international students have the same access to clubs and organizations on campus as other students, it can be difficult for them to navigate these opportunities. 

New languages and cultures can be common barriers for international students. According to Jabaut, the goal for CIPS is to help these students utilize these resources as means for support. 

Internationals student services offers personalized support through one-on-one sessions in order to help Suffolk students achieve success. 

Not only is Suffolk expanding on current initiatives for international students, but it is looking to improve any flaws in campus programs as well. 

“We’re trying to have more conversations about recognizing international students as a diverse collection of individuals,” said Jabaut. “We treat them as one group of students who we sometimes think all have the same needs.”

CIPS is looking to work with international programs in order to cultivate and grow these relationships. The INTO program, for instance, is an organization that CIPS is looking to partner with. INTO helps to bring more international students to Suffolk and supports them during their college experience. 

COVID-19 continues to limit on-campus services and programs for international students. However, the institution is looking to cultivate sources that are geared toward mental health.

Suffolk’s Counseling Health and Wellness Center now offers health services for international students through My SSP, a student support and counseling app for students who are outside of Massachusetts or the U.S. This app helps anyone who wants to access counseling services or any wellness programs through the university and cannot do so on campus.

My SSP offers 24/7 support and confidentiality with professionals who are trained in dealing with challenges students face. There are no extra costs for those enrolled in schools who are using the app. 

After recent attacks against Asian Americans due to racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jabaut wants students to know campus services can do better to reach out and offer support. 

“If we can’t make students feel like a viable, safe and welcome part of our community, we’re in trouble,” said Jaubut. 

The panel explored the realities of students studying abroad. Jabaut expressed that not as many students are able to take advantage of study abroad opportunities because they may not be able to afford it or fit it into their schedules. 

CIPS is looking to challenge that norm and work to make sure there are multiple options for all students.

Most students gear towards Europe, but Suffolk wants to amplify these possibilities and make sure people are able to experience other places they want to visit.  

As Suffolk’s study abroad programs mainly focus on underclassmen, the idea of seniors being offered the same opportunity was brought up during the discussion. CIPS is working on the idea of seniors having that experience during the fall of their last year, and opening up their travel possibilities to a location other than Madrid.

“There’s this world of opportunity to go abroad and have that experience,” said Jabaut. “We get to write our own stories and if we can help, you get to tell us how meaningful it is.”