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March 2, 2020

Graduate Student Council Provides a World of Help for International Students

Sivakorn (Boom) Chaichana and Aaiza Kausar are leaders of Adelphi’s Grad Student Council.

Sivakorn (Boom) Chaichana knows the difficulties international graduate students face.

Chaichana, a Thai student working toward an MBA in marketing as well as an MS in Supply Chain Management, says international students far from their families and friends can feel lonely and isolated. “Many of us international students are shy and don’t want to stand out,” he said.

That’s why he became vice president of the Graduate Student Council, a group of 31 students that works to support more than 1,800 graduate students at Adelphi. Chaichana wants to lead by example.

“I wanted to be the first one to stand out, so other [international] students would join me,” he explained. Although the majority of students on the council are from abroad, American-born students are welcome to join as well. But international students have been hesitant, in the past, to take leadership roles, Chaichana said. He’s the first international student to be vice president of the group.

Providing a Sense of Belonging

Grad students have a lot to juggle, said Aaiza Kausar ’17, president of the council, who works two jobs, has an internship and cares for her mother. “Grad students have families and jobs, and they get burned out and lonely. The council gives us a sense of belonging.”

The council sponsors events that range from social events at local restaurants where overworked grad students can blow off steam over cocktails, to charitable events, like a sewing party where students collected 100 baby hats to send to children in Nepal and Guyana. “Students have social needs and they have career and networking needs,” said Kausar, 24. She’s studying for a master’s degree in mental health counseling. “We try to help with both.”

The council’s social events include Mix and Mingle get-togethers off campus the week after exams each semester. They’re the group’s most popular events. “People need to unwind and relax after all that stress,” Kausar said. The last Mix and Mingle sold out, with more than 150 students attending.

The group also hosts a Spring Fling each March that features music, dancing and a message of empowerment. The council awards six $1,000 scholarships at the event to students who’ve overcome adversity, like a student whose brother was wrongly jailed, leaving her family with a slew of legal costs. Despite the financial and emotional stress, she stayed on track for her degree.

Engaging Students in Campus Life

Having an international student like Chaichana in a position of leadership has made a difference, Kausar said. “There’s a divide. Domestic students stick with their posse, and international stick with theirs. Our goal is to get those groups to mingle. Boom has helped make that happen by putting himself out there. More students turn out for events when he’s so visible.”

Chaichana said being a leader for his peers has helped him grow personally. “I was shy and had a lack of public speaking skills. Now I am better at it.” He said he’s met more people on campus, too. And the networking helped him land jobs as a graduate assistant at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business and the Center for Career and Professional Development.

He also says he’s seen his fellow international students get more involved in the campus community. “If you want someone to follow you, you have to get involved. I learned to lead by example in the Grad Student Council.”


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