Care packages and quarantine: Center for International Programs helps students from abroad overcome new hurdles

Cindy Cullen, coordinator of international student services, helps international students move into their new campus homes, Jan. 15, 2021

At the start of a normal semester at SUNY New Paltz, buses of international students coming from JFK Airport pull up for early check-in at the residence halls, as staff of the Center for International Programs (CIP), Office of Residence Life and Center for Student Engagement welcome new members of our community from all around the world.

CIP staff were able to keep the tradition alive this month for a new cohort of international students, though not without overcoming some new obstacles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a host of extra complications for international students seeking the opportunity to study in the United States. New regulations required travelers into the U.S. to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival – an experience that follows journeys of 24 hours or more for many of these travelers.

Our students were able to complete their quarantine on campus, but that still meant spending almost two weeks in a new country with limited social interaction or freedom of movement, accompanied by nothing more than whatever they were able to fit into their suitcase.

The College’s international support staff were prepared with a plan to make the experience as comfortable as possible for our new students.

Cindy Cullen, coordinator of international student services, worked with International Student Advisor & IIB Director Jeff Pollard and Coordinator of Housing Operations Rafael Calderon to assemble and deliver care packages: donations of pillows, sheets, welcome gifts, comfort foods and other “goodies” to make the students’ quarantine in Awosting Hall more pleasant.

“When it comes to supporting international students, it really does take a village” Cullen said. “From the moment they arrive, we are making a strong first impression – not only of SUNY New Paltz, but also of the United States. We are all ambassadors, greeters, educators, advocates, luggage carriers and meal and bed providers, helping people feel comfortable and secure in an unfamiliar place. We appreciate all of our colleagues and stakeholders who assist with this mission.”

More information about International Student Services at SUNY New Paltz, including resources and contact info, can be found online.