On a sunny day, three female students dressed for cool weather and wearing backpacks approach the doors of the International Center on the right side of the photo. One male student wearing a jacket and backpack approaches from the left, and one male students looks at his phone as he walks away from the building at the very left of the photo.
The International Center is a common gathering place for events and community connections throughout the academic year. (UC Davis)

Global Ambassador Mentorship Program Welcomes New International Undergraduate Students to UC Davis

With the start of the fall quarter, UC Davis welcomes new first-year and transfer international undergraduate students to campus. As the students adjust to their new home, they have the opportunity to receive mentorship, support and guidance through the Global Ambassador Mentorship Program. Administered by Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) within Global Affairs, the Global Ambassador Mentorship Program helps students adapt to life at UC Davis and in the United States. The program encourages community-building between new international and current students. Twenty-one Global Ambassador Mentor Fellows and two program co-coordinators are current undergraduate students dedicated to supporting international students and advancing their professional development and leadership skills.

This year’s Mentor Fellows began preparing in the spring of 2022 through an intercultural leadership course learning how to effectively lead and communicate in intercultural settings. Starting in the fall, the Mentor Fellows are paired with international student mentees with similar social and academic interests to help them navigate their transition into UC Davis and the United States. Mentor Fellows are eager to welcome new students and share their experiences.

Having lived in different countries, I have realized the importance of developing cultural awareness and discovering how to manage relationships with people who grew up from different parts of the world,” said Trisha Talla, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology major. “The transition to Davis is going to be different for each individual. Some will make a smooth transition, whereas others may face some hurdles... I am here as a mentor, friend, or peer advisor.”

Mentor Fellows represent the vast cultural and linguistic diversity of the UC Davis student community; this year, Mentor Fellows speak 16 languages other than English and hold 12 nationalities. Mentor Fellows who are either international students or have had cross-cultural experiences use their personal experiences to help guide their mentees.

“I am a transfer, international student, so I will understand [new international students’] concerns and excitement as individuals coming from all over the world,” said Asuka Okamoto, a fourth-year food science major originally from Japan. “I went through many hardships as an international student, and I am still struggling with some of them. [New international students] might face some cultural differences or language barriers, but I want to say [to them], you are not alone.”

While some of the Mentor Fellows are international students themselves, others are passionate about global learning, travel and cultural exchange. Many of them, like Ellie Chareonsuphiphat, a second-year English and psychology double major, will draw on the experiences they have had from traveling to other countries and engaging in other cultures. 

“I grew up on an island in the Bay Area. Since my mom was a flight attendant and my dad flew helicopters, my family loved adventures and traveling,” said Chareonsuphiphat. “We spent our summers visiting family abroad, and traveling. Over the years, I've visited 16 countries!”

Mentor Fellows support mentees the way any good friend would: by sharing, listening and encouraging. Valeria Becerra Angulo, a third-year international relations major, shared her advice to international students.

“I hope that during your time as a UC Davis student and as part of the Aggie family, you open yourself to new opportunities to engage in activities that will help you achieve your academic and career pursuits... Manage your time between academics, extracurriculars and social life; first and foremost, prioritize your physical and mental well-being above all,” she said.

As the Mentors give support to their mentees, they gain leadership, intercultural communication and event planning experience to apply to their future careers. Geoffrey Ku Htat, a third-year international relations and Japanese double major raised in Myanmar, plans to work in international affairs as a diplomat.

“My goals for the future include contributing to the global society in some way that will make the world a better place for the future generations,” he said.

For Trisha Talla, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology major originally from the Philippines, the experience of working as a mentor will help her pursue a career in medicine.

“As an aspiring physician, I will be working with diverse groups of people. I am confident that the skills I learn from this program will significantly help me serve the needs of the communities I serve,” said Talla.

Incoming international students are encouraged to apply to join the program as a mentee to receive support, guidance and resources. Mentees can also look forward to attending various social events and activities such as group dinners, game nights, cultural and language exchanges, craft nights and holiday parties, and making connections with other international students.

​​Mentee applications are now open to first-year or transfer undergraduate international students

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