Dual Roles: EIU Employee Welcomes Classmates
Each school year Eastern welcomes over 100 international students from over fifty countries to be a part of the EIU community. Last year there were 151 international students. Many of them came from India, China, South Korea, and Nepal. When an international student comes to EIU, the first person he or she meets is usually Aimee Romack. Aimee is the Office Manager for the EIU International Students and Scholars department who greets new students and helps them become oriented to a new country with immigration, paperwork and documentation requirements. The longer an international student is in the U.S., they become more accustomed to American society. However, in the meantime, most students have many questions about college life at EIU. Aimee is their source for answers and support.
A graduate of EIU, Aimee received her Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) in December of 2001. After graduation, she moved to Champaign where she worked for an investment company and later a civil engineering company where she was responsible for all Human Resources administrative tasks. Then, in the fall of 2011, she applied to EIU’s Graduate School. While she was waiting to hear if she had been accepted into the graduate program, she was offered a position in the EIU International Students and Scholars office. A few months later, she began a dual role as EIU employee and graduate student.
As a member of the International Students and Scholars office staff, Aimee is involved in the international student orientation program which covers topics such as housing, course registration, insurance, banking, Social Security card application, transportation, immigration rules, student organizations, Panther card, textbook rental, immunization records and employment. She is a Designated School Official with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is a government program within the Department for Homeland Security that monitors the visa status for international students. In addition, she is responsible for making sure that students who are seeking employment after graduation meet federal immigration regulations by completing the Optional Practical Training (OPT). She also supervises several student employees. Recently, Aimee has begun training in Admissions under the direction of Marilyn Thomas and is learning about evaluating international student transcripts.
As a graduate student, some of the international students are in her class. “Having some of these students as classmates makes me realize the challenges they face in the classroom. It has opened my eyes to see what some of these kids have to go through. I have to remain professional in the classroom and when students ask me questions during class about issues they’re facing as an international student, I tell them to come see me at the International Students and Scholars office, and I’d be happy to help them.”
Aimee’s desire to help these international students stretches beyond the office and the classroom. She is part of the Family and Friends program, a volunteer program in which an EIU international student and an American family meet once a month throughout the semester. Family and Friends participants may share fun activities, sports, hobbies, crafts, celebrate holidays and birthdays. This is a fun and beneficial program for both students and families alike. Often, volunteer families take the students into their homes and offer them food, a place to hang out or stay, or they accompany them on trips or activities to give them a taste of life in central Illinois. Also, in a sense they serve as surrogate parents. Last year, Aimee decided to host two girls from South Korea. She and her family have had the girls over for meals and have taken them shopping in Terre Haute, Indiana. They have also taken them to Cheeseburgers in Paradise and to a UFC fight. Another time, they had a campfire and introduced the college girls to s'mores. “They had no idea what a s’more was, but after adding chocolate to the roasted marshmallow, they loved it.”
In May of 2013, Aimee completed her Certification of Comprehensive Knowledge (CCK) on Human Resources and Total Quality Management in a Civil Engineering Company. In August 2013, Aimee will graduate with a Master of Science in Technology degree focused on Training and Development/Human Resources. Aimee’s experience as a graduate student and employee has offered her the opportunity “to learn a great deal about cultural differences, and that these kids are just like all other kids on campus in that they have similar desires and needs for guidance. They are growing young adults with many talents.”
The role of the International Students and Scholar office is to promote a climate of multi-cultural awareness on campus and in the surrounding area, in hopes to fully integrate international students into the international and American communities by giving them all the special assistance necessary to cope with daily life on a personal and academic level. When asked about the impact of EIU’s international student program, Aimee replied “EIU has had a great impact on other countries because of students studying outside their country who intend to return home and bring a more qualified workforce into bettering their economies. From an international admissions standpoint, our students do an amazing job of recommending EIU to their friends and siblings.”
For the past two years, Aimee Romack has played a dual role at EIU. In addition to being the Office Manager for the EIU International Students and Scholars department, Aimee is a graduate student in the School of Technology. In August 2013, Aimee graduated with a Master of Science in Technology degree focused on Training and Development/Human Resources.