Welcome to Western Michigan University!
The purpose of this handbook is to help you to get acquainted with Western Michigan University, the Kalamazoo area, and American life to make your adjustment as easy, comfortable and fulfilling as possible. At WMU, we take pride in ensuring student success with a personal touch and want you to be a happy, integrated, and successful member of our community.
Some information in this handbook is simply of general interest, presented in an effort to help you feel at home and to explain some cultural differences. Other information, however, is very important for maintaining your immigration status, good standing at WMU and in the community, and should be read carefully. Also, please keep in mind immigration laws change very often and the information contained in this handbook is intended to serve as a guide; for the most up-to-date information international students should always consult with an advisor at the International Admissions and Services office. This handbook is not intended to replace your meetings with academic advisors or counselors from the international student office. Additional information about programs, academic calendars, academic catalogs and more can always be found via the main WMU website.
While this handbook is meant to be a reference tool, the Haenicke Institute for Global Education and the International Admissions and Services office are always here to assist you. If you have any questions or concerns, you are always welcome to ask someone in our office.
A message from a former international student
First, take a deep breath now that you’re here. My name is Rosana Alsaud and I was an international student for many, many years in the U.S., mostly at WMU. I wrote this handbook with the intention to help guide a new international student arriving in Kalamazoo. You’ll find things about immigration laws, things to do on campus and in town, resources, your rights, and even some aspects about the American culture, among other things. It is simply to give you an idea of what you can find here and, hopefully, simplify your life.
From experience, I can tell you an exciting journey is about to begin! This will be a time in your life that you’ll create many memories to be carried on forever. Chances are you’ll make lifelong friends, learn a lot about American culture, earn a degree from a world-wide respected university and finally move on to a different stage in life. I had the time of my life being a student at WMU, and I think you will too. You’ll get busy very soon here, but at least initially you’ll have to learn how to adjust to a new life.
Keep in mind: the adjustment period is different for everyone. When I first arrived, I was excited and nervous at the same time. I found too many choices, too much freedom, and too little direction and guidance. At times I found myself alone and even felt disoriented by the different sights, smells, sounds and tastes. American values, traditions and habits were confusing at first. I even wondered how I would make friends and how to communicate with others. I may have worried about my academic performance at one point and wasn’t sure about how to spend my free time, especially on weekends. At the same time, I wasn’t used to so many people smiling at me and asking how I was doing. In other words, I simply wasn’t comfortable with the new culture.
Getting over the culture shock requires a little effort. Culture shock makes you feel like “you’re a fish out of the water.” Given you’re far away from familiar surroundings, it’s a natural feeling. To cope with this feeling of displacement, the best thing to do is to get busy with different activities outside of the classroom (first and foremost, your responsibilities as a student always come first!). You can serve on the student government, attend many events sponsored by WMU's student organizations, work part-time in a bookstore, do homework in the cafeteria, go to a football game ... you have no choice but to make new friends! There are so many things to do and see, so many ways to get involved on campus and in the community, and most importantly, there are so many people just like you! This is a fun time and a fun place to live! Remember that the stages of culture shock include both highs and lows. Embrace the challenge and congratulate yourself on your accomplishment at the end of your time. Once you’ve adjusted to your new surroundings, you’ll find it easier to get through the rest of your time in the U.S., and to enjoy it.
There are a lot of resources available to help you, starting with the International Student Orientation and Registration Program (ISORP), this handbook, and the Haenicke Institute. Become familiar with WMU and the community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and go to advisors for guidance. You’ll find plenty of friendly people willing to help you and show you around. The WMU Web site is full of information as well.
On behalf of WMU, we wish to extend to you our warmest welcome to WMU, Kalamazoo and the United States! Go, Broncos!