Sophomore Yağmur Topçu’s improvisation class last year required her to speak spontaneously. But the words didn’t come naturally to her as a non-native English speaker.
“The class is about impulses,” Topçu said. “But I can’t speak English on impulse because I have to translate it in my brain.”
Topçu is a performing arts major from Turkey. She was one of two speakers present for an international students panel organized by the Lacerte Family Writing & Academic Resource Center.
The panel was framed as a discussion between Topçu and recent graduate Zoë Gadegbeku. The duo discussed topics such as how welcoming the college is and the day-to-day experiences of international students.
The conversation pinballed from the difficulties of moving in and out of college without a parent to going to the hospital alone.
“You have to do all this alone,” freshman Berfin Berber, a Turkish international student sitting in the audience, said.
Gadegbeku, who became an instructor at the college after graduating from the master’s program in December, said Emerson had fewer student groups for minorities than Georgetown University, where she studied as an undergraduate.
She said this means it’s harder to come by a sense of community.
Topçu said there were no student organizations accommodating to people of Turkish descent in particular.
“That means I can’t find a place for myself,” Topçu said.
According to the Emerson factbook, only two undergraduate students from Turkey were enrolled in the college in 2017. Two of them were present for the panel, one as a speaker, and one as an audience member.
Zyanya Dickey, international graduate student liaison at the center, moderated the panel. Dickey also teaches the international student a section of the freshman writing class WR101 and WR121.
“This particular population of Emerson is very much a demographic becoming more prevalent on this campus,” Dickey said.
She said the panel was intended to open up discussion about the experience of international students. Audience members could ask the panelists questions. Five people, including the Beacon reporter and the Beacon photographer, attended the meeting.
The Beacon previously reported that the number of international students attending the college increased by 10 percent last semester. According to the Emerson Factbook, 518 international students enrolled in the college in 2017. 348 were undergraduate students and 170 were graduate students. Close to half came from China.
Earlier this semester, the center created new writing consultant positions at Kasteel Well to help international students who don’t speak English as a first language.
“We definitely need to amp up the resources we have [for international students],” Dickey said.