Emerson’s International Student Peer Mentor (ISPM) program has been helping first-year international students adjust to college and campus living in the heart of Boston since being created in 2019.
“I want to help students live comfortably in the heart of Boston,” said Freddy Wang ’23, a VMA major and peer mentor for this academic year. “Also, since I’ve been an international student for seven or eight years, I think I have enough knowledge to tell them some of the things that are very different and how to navigate their own ways of living on campus.”
All incoming first-year international students are assigned a peer mentor before arriving at Emerson. ISPMs help their mentees on campus by finding campus resources and navigating courses, but they also help students adjust to living in America and the cultural differences.
“Transition is not easy for any new student coming to college,” said Isaac Newsome, assistant director of residential education. “But I think there are extra layers that are added for international students with language, culture, trying to learn all these new things in a new environment that are maybe very different from where they are coming from.”
Events are an important part of the program, and ISPMs are tasked with creating monthly opportunities for international students to engage with each other. Last semester, students gathered to play kuub, a Swedish lawn game, on Boston Common.
“The events are very fun, and I can always go to my peer mentor and ask them about stuff that I don’t know about,” said Niklas Beger ’26.
Peer mentors are asked to stay with the program for one academic year, which is important, said Newsome. “I want them to be able to have that one person, that constant person that they could reach out to for the entire academic year.”
“The reason I think peer comes in front of mentor is first of all you’re a peer, you’re their friend, and then you’re their mentor,” said Wang.
Newsome said there have been other programs for international students at Emerson in the past, but the current ISPM program includes residential mentors. The program started at the same time the Little Building reopened in 2019. As all first-year students are required to live on campus in the Little Building, the ISPMs live in the building as well to provide support.
“When I was a freshman here, I had my own ISPM and then I sort of looked up to him to a certain degree…I guess that’s what planted the seed, like OK, there’s a job called ISPM, I’m interested,” said Wang.
“Sometimes it’s just those opportunities to get together and play kubb. For some people it might seem simple and mundane but for someone else, that could be that time when they meet their best friend,” Newsome said.