University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Stories and

A Wet Display of Teamwork

The International Student and Scholar Service (ISSS) iSuccess pre-orientation program is not just about helping new international students get ready for the upcoming school year; it is preparing participants to be student leaders on campus—and on the lake!

Recognizing the need for international students to learn and adapt to the rhythm and style of American classrooms, ISSS started the iSuccess pre-academic orientation four years ago. The optional program combines simulated classroom exercises, lectures, and mentorship to introduce participants to the University of Minnesota and create a cohort of students who will be leaders throughout their academic careers.

iSuccess’s activities are meant to be diverse and fun, so this year’s agenda included a kayaking trip on Lake Calhoun. Everything seemed routine when the students began paddling, as Program Coordinator Marina Uehara watched from the shore. That was until one of the kayaks tipped over, dumping its passenger in the water.

“As I watched, I saw all of the boats turn around and come together. They all worked together to bring the student and his boat back to shore. It wasn’t just people of one nationality or group; everyone turned around to help this person that they had just met three or four days prior,” said Marina Uehara, program coordinator.

One of the students later told Uehara that she had “taught them well about teamwork.”

“In my head, I thought, ‘it’s not just me.’ You can teach the idea of teamwork, but ultimately, if it isn’t in a person, it won’t work. All of these students are amazing. I can’t wait to see all that they do while in school here.“

The iSuccess experience doesn’t end when the week concludes. All of the students are paired with mentors (either Uehara, a former international student herself, or a past program participant). The mentors regularly check in with the students and offer leadership opportunities.

“iSuccess is not about handholding, but… when you first come to the U, there is so much to do, you don’t know where to start. We are trying to clear a path toward success for these students. If they grasp the opportunity is up to them.”

Date Published: October 2015