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Stanford welcomes the international community

Stanford’s Office of Community Engagement created a new video to help welcome international scholars and students to the university. According to pre-pandemic numbers, around 5,000 students from more than 100 countries and nearly 2,000 scholars from more than 85 countries are part of the Stanford community.

When Julio Cesar Nunes arrived at Stanford from Brazil in January, among the challenges he faced were getting to know a vast new workplace, adjusting to professional culture shifts and above all, he says, dealing with feelings of saudade – the Portuguese word for a sense of melancholic longing to be with someone you know or love.

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Office of Community Engagement

Stanford’s Office of Community Engagement created a new video to help welcome international scholars and students to the university.

Nunes, who was born in Mexico, is one of the thousands of scholars and students who come to Stanford from around the globe, navigating new customs as well as increasingly complicated immigration policies and travel restrictions.

To help welcome others in the university’s international community, Nunes appears in a new video created by the Office of Community Engagement in partnership with the Bechtel International Center, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and Stanford Video.

Nunes, a medical doctor from Rio de Janeiro, is a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford’s Center for Clinical Research and is in the process of becoming a psychiatrist in the U.S. Much of his work focuses on increasing racial and cultural minority access to clinical trials and therefore, to the healthcare system.

“Wonderful steps have been taken at Stanford so far increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, but a lot has yet to be done,” he said. “The message that Stanford is giving out of welcoming and opening the doors to the international community is another great step [the university] is taking to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.”

‘A sense of belonging’

According to pre-COVID numbers, around 5,000 students from more than 100 countries and nearly 2,000 scholars from more than 85 countries are part of the Stanford community.

The new video was created to “support this group’s arrival experience and provide positive recognition through the diverse and unified voices of the university and community members,” said Merry Pham, program manager for international engagement in the Office of Community Engagement. “This video is designed to be a shared resource to welcome our global scholars. We invite the many units that support the international community to share this video on their websites and various communication channels as well and include it in their welcome or orientation processes for the international community.”

The video is part of the international community’s first impression of Stanford; it highlights resources and clearly states the university’s values, Pham said. Additional resources for international visitors can be found on the websites of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the Faculty Staff Help Center, the Bechtel International Center and the Office of Community Engagement, including Bechtel Connect, the new portal for immigration requests and a Frequently Asked Questions page for visitors with Stanford appointments.

The video features more than a dozen members of the international community expressing welcome in languages including Korean, Spanish, Punjabi, French, Turkish and Bengali.

“At Stanford, international students, scholars and visitors are an important part of our diverse community,” President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said. “Our vibrant international community matters a great deal to me personally. I came to this country for postdoctoral training, so I understand first-hand what a fulfilling experience it can be to visit and learn in a new country.”

Warm welcome

Yoanna Gerwel Federici, a senior scholar advisor at the Bechtel International Center who helps visiting scholars obtain J-1 visas, worked on the video.

Many factors can affect an international community member’s transition to Stanford, she said, such as where they are coming from, how old they are and whether they are coming with a family. “The constant issuance of immigration restrictions in the U.S. has definitely affected the entire international community, students and scholars who plan to come to the United States,” she said. “It’s created a climate of anxiety and fear.”

And while the Bechtel International Center provides many resources, international scholars may not have as much support as students who live in a dorm, she added, and some may have never traveled internationally before or may come from countries with cultures and customs very different from those of the U.S.

“The past few years in the U.S., and last year, in particular, have been challenging for international students and visitors,” said Martin Shell, vice president and chief external relations officer. “It is a vitally important moment for the university to send a strong signal of ‘welcome’ to our international community and global visitors. This would be more relevant by reflecting the current perspective and importance of Stanford as a globally engaged university. We wanted this in place as Stanford prepares to fully reopen its campus this fall. The production involved many from the ‘Stanford Global Village’ and we are deeply grateful to the many campus partners who helped make this happen.”

Diversity of experiences

For Nunes, involving more people from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds is a crucial step to improving access and reducing disparities in healthcare. “We need people from all those backgrounds and diverse settings to come up with new ideas and new plans. We’re all going to be a little blind to the experiences we have not lived,” he said.

“It’s been extremely, extremely strict for the past year and a half, and now with the amazing advances of vaccinations, health policies and all those measures in place, Stanford is able to say, ‘You are welcome, it’s safe to come back, we can welcome you with open arms,’ ” Nunes said.