As a mother who can’t help but put herself in others’ shoes, Mikki Sandin, assistant director of professional & life skills, is a passionate — and impactful — adviser, mentor and friend to international students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“Thinking about sending my own kids to another country for four years — to study, live and engage with another culture and language without having family nearby — I put myself in the shoes of the students and their parents and think, ‘How in the world could you navigate all this?’” Sandin said.
This emphasis on making sure every person feels included has led Sandin to be an adviser to the Rwandan Student Association and Business International Student Association, affirming and addressing the issues they face while also helping them make connections around campus and in the community.
“I really want to be there to support international students and am honored when they talk to me about their experiences,” Sandin said.
Going further to empower international students, Sandin developed a seminar in the College of Business for international students that offers language support, one-on-one tutoring, academic guidance and networking opportunities.
“Language barriers can affect many things in your day-to-day life: your education, your ability to interact in the classroom, comprehend the material, and study,” she said. “It’s very layered.”
They also result in another common challenge for international students — connecting with their American classmates.
“A lot of students have high hopes about making American friends; many people are very friendly here, but it can be hard to cross those cultural divides and really find things in common,” Sandin said.
She challenges domestic students to be more intentional about including international students across campus.
“As students come into your classes and dorms, make the effort to sit and listen to them, ask questions, and be curious — it makes a huge difference,” she said. “It takes work to develop a friendship no matter where you’re from. My role is advocating for international students to have the strength and courage to keep trying.”