International Student Tip: Make use of the Dashew Center

Hi international students!  It’s that time of the year when we’re starting to review or book our plane tickets to LAX in anticipation of the beginning of our journey abroad here in LA.  As you’re making your preparations for life at UCLA, make sure you don’t forget to check out the Dashew Center!

The Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars (DCISS) is housed in Tom Bradley International Hall (named after a late mayor of Los Angeles, same guy the international terminal at LAX is named after), found just downhill of De Neve Plaza on the Hill (where UCLA’s on-campus housing is located).  Bradley International Hall not only houses a lovely front lobby with high ceilings and comfy couches great for relaxing and catching a break, but further in on the first floor are the offices of those who staff the Dashew Center and help make its wonderful activities happen.

For one, there is the New International Student and Scholar Orientation (popularly known as “NISSO“) that all F-1 and J-1 students must attend to complete the mandatory check-in and workshop.  In addition to helping you straighten out your student visa materials and requirements, NISSO is also loads of fun.  There are not only helpful workshops but also scavenger hunts to orient you to the campus, as well as off-campus trips in the evening that take you to popular tourist attractions in LA like Rodeo Drive.  When I attended in September of my freshman year, I met students from all over the world and immediately made friends with the other incoming international students of that year.  Although many of them were on one-year exchange programs and only stayed a year, we had many great memories and continue to stay in touch.  My favorite thing about mingling with international students is that in addition to maintaining your network of friends back in your home country and at LA, your network also expands to the home countries of your new international friends!

Moreover, Dashew sends out a weekly digest of upcoming activities that are open to not only international students and their families, but everyone in the UCLA community!  This past year, I attended a TV-show taping (a great way to make some extra cash or win cool stuff) for America’s Funniest Home Videos at Disney’s California Adventure park.  It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life, since I got to stand around a small intimate stage on which Tom Bergeron stood, and be filmed for the audience footage of that week’s episode.  We also had a preview of California Adventure’s famous World of Color attraction that was being filmed for the episode (which usually costs a hefty $80 park ticket to watch).  All in all, I got to talk to Tom Bergeron, take a peek at the World of Color, be on television, AND earn a free 1-day park hopper pass for Disneyland and California Adventure (worth $105) instead of the usual $18 compensation!  What more could one ask for in one evening?

Another one of my favorite things that Dashew Center holds is the Global Siblings Program.  It pairs an international student with a domestic student and makes “families” of pairs that meet up at designated Global Siblings events a few times a quarter.  I participated in this program for two years and had great experiences both times as the international sibling; my “sister” during my first year gave me a lot of “local” knowledge about LA, Southern California (popularly abbreviated as SoCal), and America in general that would have taken me much longer to pick up otherwise.

And there are still more great things offered by Dashew.  They include the English Conversation Program, Spouses Circle, International Film Nights, International Coffee Breaks, International Graduation Ceremony, apartment-hunting workshops, annual longer-distance trips during long breaks (such as ski trips and roadtrips), and more.  I would highly recommend putting your email on Dashew’s mailing list to stay tuned to their weekly digests that announce all of their upcoming activities, and participate as much as you can since they are lots of fun and are usually sold at incredible discounts.

If you are attending NISSO, I will be volunteering at a few sessions and look forward to seeing you there!  I will also be giving a presentation titled “Culture Shock” at one or more of the sessions, so drop by and say hi if you are there and get the chance. 🙂

Eleanor Fang