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Stepping off on the right foot - 23 July 2009

iSPOC Volunteers await International Students touching downUSU welcomes International Students at airport

Stepping off the plane onto Australian soil can be a daunting experience for new international students, but the University of Sydney (USU) has launched a new initiative to welcome the newcomers with a friendly face.

The iSPOC Program (International Student Point of Contact), launched in July, deploys volunteer students from the USU, to Kingsford Smith Airport to greet the arriving students from abroad, and provide immediate hospitality and assistance.

The volunteers, many who are international students themselves, provide useful information about Australia and the University of Sydney to the newcomers, as well as assisting with travel and accommodation arrangements. The program will also include trips and outings early in the Semester to help acclimatise the international students to life in Sydney.

Brendon McKeon, The USU’s Volunteer Coordinator said international students are a vital part of the campus community, and should not be left in the cold.

“Currently the International Student experience in Australia is characterised by high occurrences of loneliness, culture shock and isolation,“ said McKeon. “The iSPOC program is a great way to welcome new International Students into our University community. Its fun for local students too; it’s a chance to meet some great people from all over the world and to go on some exciting outings around Sydney,” he said.
The iSPOC airport welcoming service is just one component of a broader USU-led project to make the difficult adjustment to studying abroad easier and more enjoyable for students from all corners of the globe.

The USU’s International Student Lounge was also launched recently, and will be a central point of information, support and respite for international students at the University of Sydney.

McKeon said that Voluntary Student Unionism legislation led to a decline in services for both international and domestic students, but the USU remained committed to upholding such services.

“The USU has been able maintain services such as the Australian Discussion Groups and Student Point of Contact volunteers, with iSPOC developing as a combination of the two,” said McKeon.

“It is envisaged that the iSPOC program will run each semester in order to support arriving students,” he said, “We’re really excited about the future of the program.”

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