Working with Dining Services to further accommodate religious dietary restrictions, providing a place for prayer between classes and donating textbooks are just a few of the things West Virginia University is doing to help international students make Morgantown home.
Most of these services, offered through WVU’s Office of International Students and Scholars, are designed to accommodate the University’s two largest constituencies of international students – those from the Middle East and South Asia.
During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, WVU Dining Services provided breakfast boxes each night so that students could have a full meal before the sun rose in the morning, allowing students to be better prepared to meet their daily routine of classes and work each day.
A dedicated prayer space was secured in Stalnaker Hall, for both men and women, to allow Muslim students to have access to a centrally located area on the downtown campus to facilitate their need to pray during the day.
“International students are a very important part of the student body at WVU, and it is important that we help them to feel comfortable in the Morgantown community,” said David Stewart, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students. “The interchange between our international and domestic students provides all of our students with opportunities to develop a global perspective.”
Also, in order to ensure that all Muslim students have easy access to the mosque, located near the Evansdale campus on Prospect Street, direct bus service began on Sept. 18. A bus now leaves the Mountainlair each Friday after classes end at 1:20 p.m., allowing students to arrive in time for the “jummah” prayer.
“A lot of international students do not have their own cars when they first arrive on campus and this is an easy way that we can demonstrate our commitment to supporting students from this part of the world,” said Michael Wilhelm, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars. “When I was director of the Intensive English Program our class schedule was modified to accommodate Muslim students need to be at the Mosque on Friday afternoons, and this simply makes it easier for them to get to where they need to be safely and on time.”
Student Affairs and the Office of International Students and Scholars is also very proud to be working with the Chinese Students Association and the Morgantown Chinese School.
Morgantown Chinese School, a non-profit organization, was established in 1998. The school’s goal is to promote Chinese heritage appreciation through cultural arts and language study, and to provide Chinese leadership training for Chinese children.
“The obvious concern is that when mom and dad return to reap the benefits of their newly earned degree from WVU, the kids are going to return to their local schools and instruction in their native language. For this reason, many linguistic and geographically based groups of international parents (and WVU students) attempt to provide instruction in their children’s native languages while they are here in Morgantown,” Wilhelm said.
To help the school operate, the past two years the Office of International Students and Scholars has provided the textbooks that are needed for the Morgantown Chinese School.
“A lot of the WVU students who are impacted by this gift are graduate students who have older kids, and they really want to make sure that their children are able to maintain their traditional Chinese culture during their time in Morgantown, and language is of course a major part of that,” said Hua Huang, a graduate student from China and current president of the WVU International Students Organization.
For more information on the services offered to WVU’s Office of International Students and Scholars, visit http://oiss.wvu.edu/.
CONTACT: Michael Wilhelm, WVU Office of International Students and Scholars