The International Student Association held a welcome party on Friday, Sept. 17, to bring together the university's international student population and launch a new website, along with musical performances and other social activities.
Members of the ISA, Student Government, and LSUPD affirmed the university's commitment to the safety and wellbeing of international students at the event, which was co-hosted by the International Cultural Center.
They also launched a new website with resources to help students find local housing, get information about graduate school, and more.
ISA Vice President Ovini Weeratunge and Secretary Ritu Ghosh welcomed the students and said the night would connect international students. This comes after several years of declining international enrollment at LSU and in the U.S. exacerbated by the pandemic, with LSU seeing a 15% decline in the fall semester of 2020.
"I'm very excited to get you all connected with each other," said Laura Dean, director of international student engagement. "Please consider this place your home away from home."
Dean also introduced Coordinator of International Student Engagement Killian Dumont, who brought gumbo and jambalaya for students to enjoy.
Shashank Muley, ISA president and graduate senator invited several SG members to help students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with student leadership. He highlighted that SG recently purchased new flags to ensure all the students' nations are represented.
ISA IT Chair Rohan Kadkol talked about some of the struggles international students face with finding apartments and social activities in a new country and city before unveiling the ISA's new website that seeks to solve some of these issues.
"There wasn't a hub for international students, and that's why we decided to make the hub ourselves," Kadkol said.
Many international students were unable to travel to their home country to visit family during the pandemic.
Undergraduate Senator Colin Raby spoke about his appreciation for LSU's international community. He told students that although the university is a vast community and getting involved can seem daunting, there is a seat for international students.
"Our international students on average have a higher GPA than domestic students," Raby said. "You are some of the best at our university and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to help you."
Student performances by guitarist Nafis Imtiyaz, cellist Luis Bernardo Castro Sanchez, and singer Weeratunge followed.
Marlon Hawkins, LSUPD community outreach officer, told students about various safety resources offered by the LSUPD, including courses offered by LSUPD like pedestrian safety and Rape Aggression Defense. He added that students should always feel comfortable asking an officer for help if they feel unsafe.
"If you ever need anything, stop an officer," Hawkins said. "If you need a ride, don't feel afraid to talk to them and get a ride home."