Tag Archives: ISO

Experiencing International Style, Culture

To see more pictures of the 30th Annual ISO Expo and Cultural Fashion show, click here.


From Inside USD – The University of San Diego’s deep appreciation for international culture is tried and true. Whether it’s the 16th century Spanish Renaissance-inspired architecture, immersion trips beyond the nearby U.S.-Mexico border, opportunities for all students to study abroad, or having international students here on an exchange program or as full-time undergraduate and graduate students, USD takes internationalization seriously.

On Friday night, April 24, USD’s international emphasis will remain serious, but it will be seriously fun, too. From 7-10 p.m. in the Hahn University Center Forums (ABC), USD’s large space will present the campus community with one of most enjoyable evenings of the year — the 30th annual International Expo and Cultural Fashion Show.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the crowd and their enthusiasm toward the event,” says Claudio Trespalacios, a junior double major in business administration and environmental studies from Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. He’s president of USD’s International Student Organization (ISO), which means on Friday, he’s the event’s master of ceremonies. He’ll also enjoy the free international buffet available to all.

“I’m very excited about all of the food we’re going to have. This is one night where you can eat Italian, Mexican and German food at the same time in the same place. It’s great!”

Many come for the delicious food, but be sure to stay and enjoy a wonderful, energized evening of entertainment courtesy of international music performers and the student fashion show. During the latter, USD students, many representing their home country, take pride in modeling native fashions on the runway.

“It’s my first time to walk in the fashion show so I’m really excited to represent Syria,” says Katherine Saado, a junior international business major who was born and raised in Dubai, but is half Syrian and half Filipino.

Saado said the chance to wear, with pride, Syrian clothing, is extra special given the current state of affairs there.

“These past few years have been huge devastation and whirlwind for my family and I. We have our relatives in Syria who we’ve worried about every day since the war. Syria will get the peace it needs, at least that’s what I’m hoping for. … So, with everything going on in Syria and the bad news we hear every day, it will be nice to celebrate the country on a more light and happy occasion at the Expo. It’s one night where we all celebrate our pride and belonging to our countries and constant hope for the better in our struggling countries.”

Oftentimes, international and American students model by wearing the fashion of a different country from their own. It’s a chance to gain a new perspective and show appreciation for another’s culture in a public setting.

This event annually brings out the best in USD alumnus, Greg Grassi, who earned psychology and Spanish degrees in 1999. These days, Grassi is the associate director for the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) and ISO adviser.

“This event shows that internationalization has been on the radar at USD for a long time,” says Grassi, noting the event’s milestone year. “This will be my seventh Expo as ISO adviser and, even in that time, I have so many great memories of the show from dynamic performances to students proudly representing their countries.”

Grassi’s longtime appreciation for the event includes being an annual model participant (pictured, right). He’s represented Afghanistan, Japan and Kuwait in the past.

“I will be modeling for Morocco,” he says. “I’m fulfilling a promise to an exchange student from last year. She recently sent me the clothing from Morocco.”

The inclusive and diverse representation — more than 30 countries will be showcased on stage — is a testament to the international students who attend USD.

Trespalacios said the initial transition from his small town near Mexico City to San Diego and the Southern California lifestyle was a big change, but he’s settled in now: “It takes some time to adjust to the culture, but USD is a very welcoming community and there are incredible resources for international students at the International Office (Serra Hall 315), so the transition is not as bad. It’s also a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I try to get full advantage of all of what USD offers.”

Trespalacios’ ISO presidency is a great leadership opportunity. “One of my favorite experiences has been to serve on the International (Student) Welcome team at orientation. It was a week full of craziness and a lot of work, but helping other international students with this important transition is very satisfying. Plus, you get to meet an incredible amount of people you would never imagine you’d meet.”

Saado adjusted well to USD, too, through her immediate connection to ISO.

“I hadn’t realized how huge the ISO was until I attended all of the events planned out for the freshmen. As a freshman coming from really far away, you definitely come in with all of these concerns and fears of blending in. But ISO is where I met most of my friends and you gain confidence from meeting people from all other organizations on campus. Growing up in a very diversified country like Dubai and having parents from different countries, it brought me to just understanding and appreciating so many other cultures. All of my friends now are just so international. I love it.”

She thoroughly enjoyed a study abroad trip to Paris — “my experience studying abroad was beyond what words can express,” — to complete a French minor requirement.

And like study abroad, Friday provides the entire campus community with a sample of international culture all without leaving campus. One can meet new people, taste different foods, hear new music and see traditional and beautiful fashions.

“It’s a chance to honor our international student population and to show that we value the contributions of our international community,” says Grassi. “Plus,” he adds tongue-in-cheek, “I think students just enjoy seeing what I’ll wear each year.”

Get ready for a fun evening, Toreros — international style!

— Ryan T. Blystone

Reflections from German Biochemistry Graduate and Researcher: Lea Kiefer

Name: Lea Kiefer

Country: Germany

Major: Biochemistry with a minor in Mathematics

Languages Spoken: German and English

Lea Kiefer (1)

Hey! My name is Lea Kiefer and I used to be an international student at the University of San Diego up until recently (Dec 2014) when I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a math minor. I specifically picked USD for its great science department. The department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as the Biology department are very small and full of great professors. Undergraduate research is mandatory and is easily accessible to all students studying in the sciences. The professors are highly supportive when it comes to scientific work inside and outside the classroom. It is even possible that a professor will take you to a national conference to present your research or include you on a scientific article published in a prestigious magazine. The key, not just in the science department, is to get to know your professors early on. USD professors are generally willing to help you out and are great connections to have.

Besides the academic side of USD, I think it is important to get involved in student life on campus. A great organization to join is, of course, the International Student Organization (ISO). I joined ISO my freshmen year and got selected into the executive board at the end of that year. I have served on the board until I graduated and never regretted my time commitment to ISO. I found many of my best friends in ISO and it somewhat evolved into my family far away from home. Another great opportunity that USD bears is the Outdoor Adventures Club. They usually organize amazing camping and hiking trips to the various national parks close by. In addition, it is also important to join professional clubs and honors organizations to boost your resume.15993561985_c50764d742_z

Even though USD might not be one of the top schools in the country, it can definitely give you what most top schools cannot give an undergraduate student: lots of one-on-one time with your professors. So make use of that because it will give you an advantage over many other skilled applicants when you go on to graduate school or into the working field. If you decide to go to graduate school you should take the generalized tests necessary (GRE, GMAT) early on in the summer before your senior year. This will allow you enough time to find schools, apply and send the necessary documents. It is important to keep checking in with your faculty advisor while in the application process, since he or she will have a tremendous influence on your application through the letter of recommendation.

Overall, it is never too early to start thinking about future plans and the earlier you start the better prepared you are for what is about to come.

– Lea Kiefer

USD Soccer Part of International Students’ Acclimation!

From Inside USD —  Down 1-0 at halftime of its season-opening game against the University of Buffalo last Friday, the USD men’s soccer team was off to one side of the Torero Stadium field to discuss second-half strategy.

As that happened, ThomasInternationalSoccer-group Debray was one of five Torero fans picked for a contest. Contestants sprinted to midfield, collected a soccer ball and kicked the ball into the net for a goal. Debray, running as fast as he could, reached the ball first and completed the task to claim a free pizza as his prize.

After posing for a celebratory photo, Debray returned to his seat. Meanwhile, the USD soccer team returned to the field and proceeded to take care of business with four unanswered goals, including two in the first two minutes. While it was an impressive offensive display, one might concur that the sizzling halftime strike by Debray, an international exchange student from Strasbourg, France, was a sign of good things to come.

Debray sat with nearly 100 fellow USD international students and staff members from the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) who’d walked from Serra Hall to the stadium. A social event during USD’s international student orientation, both Debray’s effort and the Toreros’ second-half surge gave the latter’s newest fans plenty of reasons to smile, clap and cheer.

“I like that I’m not just coming to the U.S. on holiday, but I will be here for one year,” said Debray, a senior who is studying business marketing and wants to learn entrepreneurship from a U.S. perspective. Being at USD opens up other possibilities, too. “I want to discover all of San Diego. I want to travel, do a road trip to other parts of California, to Las Vegas and see the Grand Canyon.”

The University of San Diego, just beginning its 2014-15 academic year, is a growing popular destination institution for international students. The student population has grown immensely in the last few years. USD had more than 700 international undergraduates, graduate and law students in 2013, OISS Director Chia-Yen Lin said, and that number could rise this year.

The large group on Friday, despite members being from several different countries, was unified. They wore white t-shirts with “Torero Time” and a picture of mascot Diego Torero’s face. Individually, students were happy they’d chosen USD.

Russian Alexandra Leonidova is an incoming freshman from Togliatti, southeast of Moscow. Interested in becoming a doctor, she’s looking into USD’s pre-med program and plans to major in either biology or chemistry. She’s not new to the U.S., either, with visits to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York at age 15. Two years later, she was in Wisconsin on a scholarship for a Future Leaders Exchange program.

California was where she wanted to attend college. Via USD’s website, she learned about its dedication to international students and study and that USD’s Campus Recreation offers ballroom dance classes.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “When I saw USD on its website, I thought it would be the perfect place to be.”

International student-athletes on a USD sports roster is a common sight. Men’s soccer, for instance, has players from Germany, Norway, Canada and England.

Another USD sport with a strong international presence is tennis. Lisa Schlatter, a native of Tyrol, Austria, is a freshman who will vie for a spot on Coach Sherri Stephens’ women’s team this year. Schlatter checked out USD’s academic programs and has interest in studying business. But she’s equally focused on tennis, being among other international students and immersing herself in American culture.

“It is a beautiful campus, great weather and I’ve already been to the beach,” she said. “It’s been easy to find new friends. I look forward to playing tennis and being more independent.”

Schlatter, Leonidova and Debray and most new USD international students seem to enjoy what USD has to offer. Seeing how the international student orientation programming has gone so far, this makes junior mechanical engineering major, Khaled Alaskar of Kuwait, very happy.

“I want to share my experiences with the other international students and help them not make the same mistakes I did,” said Alaskar, who is part of the international student orientation team. “I want them to know I understand what they’re going through right now.”

Alaskar’s “mistakes” aren’t truly that; more so, he’s now doing for other international students what current OISS Associate Director Greg Grassi, a 1996 USD alumnus, did for him.

“Greg helped me come out of my shell,” he said. “I now have a lot of American friends as well as international friends. It’s been easy for me to blend the two together.”

Alaskar’s advice to other international students is for them to not be shy, to get involved on campus and take full advantage of campus resources such as meeting with professors during office hours, visiting and seeking help through the Center for Student Success and finding an organization or activity that connects them within the campus community.

“That’s why I joined the international orientation team,” Alaskar said. “I’d meet RA (Resident Assistants) and PA (Preceptorial Assistants) students and I’d always see how happy they were, happy about what they were doing. Being an orientation leader, I’ve found an opportunity and now I know what that happy feeling is like, too. I recommend that all students to get out of the bubble.”

Friday’s soccer game was a start. Noticeably, there were loud cheers from the group during pre-game player introductions, especially when a Torero international student-athlete’s name was called. It was a reminder that anywhere they go on campus, there’s always the potential to find a place that makes them feel right at home.

— Ryan T. Blystone