INTO study pods create connections for international students


Courtesy of Kate Sparco

INTO program creates new initiative for international students battling zoom fatigue.

Suffolk University’s INTO program is offering a new initiative designed to create connections for international students during the pandemic.

This program, known as INTO Study Pods, was created to help students experiencing zoom fatigue and isolation.

INTO Suffolk is a collaboration involving Suffolk University and INTO University Partnerships (IUP). IUP is a company based in the U.K. that works to create pathway programs for U.K. and U.S.-based international students that provide support for them while working toward their degrees. 

International students studying at INTO programs across the U.S. are able to access INTO Study Pods. This initiative is aimed to create connections between students in the same town or region, said Kathy Sparco, executive director of INTO Suffolk.   

The new resource allows students to create their own virtual communities with other students. The study pods can also vary depending on how many students participate, the location of the meeting and COVID-19 conditions. 

This program takes place across all INTO programs in America in the hopes of achieving new friendships and experiences. 

She added that any international students who wish to be a part of this outreach program will receive their invitation from their Student Experience office at their center.

“We are very proud of their hard work and success at this time. We see our students being successful and are excited for their continuation at Suffolk and eventually getting their degree,” Sparco said. 

Similar to most other Suffolk programs, the INTO program has converted most services and recruitment efforts online. This challenging time has provided inspiration for new opportunities for student outreach. 

According to Sparco, COVID-19 has caused a decline in international students on campus. Despite this, the program’s staff hopes to see more international students in the fall of 2021. 

The INTO program has faced challenges with student engagement because of online learning, Sparco said. The pandemic has also caused international students to rely more on faculty support.

“We have been gratified to see so many students choosing to study online and begin/continue their pathway program,” Sparco said. 

Sparco has held her position since 2018 and has been affiliated with the university since 2012. 

Having a career in international education, Sparco felt Suffolk was a university where she could continue working in the international education field. 

“With such a high percentage of international students, Suffolk really came across as a university that cared about its international student population and I wanted to be a part of that,” Sparco said.