Campus News

Voluntary airport pickup program helps first-year international students navigate to their new home

The airport pickup program, which is a key component of the partnership of CSSA and MIP, helps incoming international freshmen arrange better transportation from the airport to the dorms.

Image By: Will Cioci

American universities, which for half a century have attracted the world's best and brightest students, are flushed with international students who made their journeys from all over the globe. 

According to the 2017 Graduate Enrollment and Degrees report from the Council of Graduate Schools, in Fall 2017, international graduate students constituted approximately 20 percent of total enrollment.

The number of international graduate students enrolled at UW-Madison is significantly higher. The number of international graduate students was close to 2,652 in Fall 2017, close to half the number of American graduate students at 4,780, according to the office of the registrar at UW-Madison.

For incoming international students, many of whom have never been to the US, finding transportation from airports to campus dorms is challenging due to lack of familiarity of transportation options. 

“It’s hard for us to get around because it’s such a large country,” said Yanling Wang, a UW-Madison freshman majoring in computer science. “It would be difficult if nobody picks me up when I first arrived at the airport. Honestly, I don’t even know which bus to take to go to my place.”

Driven by the increasing demand for transportation assistance, the Chinese Student Scholars Association (CSSA) at UW-Madison initiated a partnership with Madison International Partners (MIP) in 2013 to help incoming international students with transportation. 

According to Jean Rene, the Executive Director of MIP, he and his staff try their best to help the international community because of the difficulties that international freshmen might face when they first arrive in town. 

“Their parents are usually very anxious about what’s going to happen once the child arrived here,” Rene said. “To relieve the fear that they have, we have a number of programs and activities that help those international [students] to feel like home in Madison, even though they are living away from home.”  

The airport pickup program is where American volunteers, who live in town, volunteer to drive first-year international students from the Dane County Airport to their dorms. The sign-up form can be found on both CSSA’s WeChat account and MIP’s website.

Post: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/SYQBohhPEIvRnCUpiFy5dw

MIP was created initially as the international outreach ministry of Christ Presbyterian Church but became an independent organization after becoming a more widely-known group by those who need it most within the international community. 

Kao Yong Thao, the international student advisor who oversees International Student Orientation at UW-Madison, views the airport pickup program between CSSA and MIP as a good opportunity for international students, though said she has not heard about this program since she is new to her position. 

“I think it is a cool opportunity,” Thao said. “I am always really amazed by the effort that our students currently devote towards supporting their peers and making sure they are getting the resources they need as they are transitioning to campus.” 

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