Mingyu Zhao, junior in chemistry on a pre-dentistry track, is the president of the Auburn International Student Organization.
After arriving at Auburn through Auburn Global, Zhao said this program allowed her to have teachers and friends to help with her initial experiences and first classes.
Blending experiences with domestic students can be hard, and Zhao said it was difficult to get involved on campus.
“I wasn’t able to meet a lot of domestic students,” Zhao said.
Zhao said that outside of Auburn Global’s help she felt lost without someone beside her telling her what to do.
The International Student Organization was a way for her to become more involved on campus.
Before becoming president, Zhao was a member of the ISO. Although first applying for the position as vice president, Zhao said she felt qualified to take on the presidency position.
“I felt I had more experience … and that I might be more able to relate to international students,” Zhao said.
There is an election process that occurs in the spring, and after Zhao was elected, she described herself as being very happy with the position.
“I really wanted to be in this position because I felt like I could see more … and I could know more about international students' lives,” Zhao said.
Zhao has been able, through her own experiences and as president of ISO, to better help other international students adjust to life in Auburn.
“If you have some organization to support you, you will have a more solid transition,” Zhao said.
After becoming president, Zhao said she was excited to do something new and host new events.
“We advertise our events as free and open to the public, so you can bring your friends or family,” Zhao said.
Many international students, especially international graduate students, often have their family here with them, Zhao said. So by opening events to family and friends, the community and students are better served.
“We open that up to everyone and ask international students to bring their family inside and feel apart of the Auburn Family and that you are welcomed,” Zhao said.
Zhao also said she had ideas on how to diversify the group. Members include students from China, Uganda, Bangladesh, Africa, India and America.
ISO has also strived to include all international students by helping and reaching out to the Country Student Organizations.
Through this, students from these other countries can share their culture with other students. This allows students to learn more about other cultures as well as feel more welcomed.
Zhao said they often take student advice because they want to improve the organization.
“The mission of ISO is to bring domestic students and international students together to create an environment to make international students feel welcome,” Zhao said.
Becoming president of ISO has benefited Zhao in many ways, she said. She said that before joining, she was less social. Through experiences such as collaborating with other students, introducing herself to strangers and coordinating events, Zhao has learned to be more outgoing.
“After every event there are a lot of people saying, 'This event is great, this is really helping international students,' Zhao said. "That’s the most happy part for me. For myself, it’s kind of like improving my learning skills and cooperation and leadership skills. I would love to be here and helping everyone out.”
Zhao’s goal for this position is to work on creating a more open environment for international students to connect with domestic students.
“We hope one day ISO can be known by every international student and even a lot of the domestic students who would like to collaborate,” Zhao said.