We want to introduce you to some friendly faces you probably see fairly often around Farzaneh Hall! Next time you’re in the building, be sure to stop by and say hello.
Meet Megan Reeves and Mary Beth Polk, our International Program Coordinators! They work with our international student community, planning many fun events and activities for the students throughout the academic year, including game nights, shopping trips, dinners and the annual Eve of Nations. These two were recently very busy with the fall New International Student Orientation (NISO), during which they welcomed 500 new international students. Working with the Office of International Student Services (ISS), Megan and Mary Beth help welcome OU’s new international students to Oklahoma and get them adjusted to their new home away from home at OU. NISO is comprised of three parts: Airport Transport, which involves greeting the students at Will Rogers World Airport and helping them get safely to Norman; ISS Arrival Appointment, a meeting between the students and their ISS advisor to collect important information and documents; and Crimson Connection, a mandatory in-person orientation filled with fun activities to teach students about OU and foster new friendships. Let’s take a moment to get to know Megan and Mary Beth a little better!
How long have you been at OU? With CIS?
Megan: I graduated from OU in May 2011 with my Bachelor of Arts in International and Area Studies and a minor in Spanish. I came back to OU in August 2014 to work for CIS in this position. I just celebrated my three-year “work-iversary” on August 11!
Mary Beth: I’ve been working at OU since March 2015. I started out as the Front Office Coordinator for International Student Services and moved into the International Programming position in June 2016.
What do you love most about your job?
Megan: I love building relationships with our international students, and having the opportunity to constantly learn from them and all of their respective cultures. I also love being able to facilitate cultural exchange and awareness through programs like International Student Speakers Bureau (ISSB).
Mary Beth: I love getting to empower students to succeed on campus. Developing leaders within the international student community is rewarding because they are the ones taking initiative to welcome new students. After Crimson Connection one of my peer mentors came up to me and said, “I wish I had been a peer mentor every semester! This was so fun!”
How much planning goes into Airport Pickup and Crimson Connection?
Megan: I typically begin the planning process for the fall semester’s Airport Transport in May, once the spring semester has wrapped up. I work directly with the Will Rogers Airport, Airport Express, my hired student workers, other departments of OU and of course the almost 500 new international students, so there are many steps and details along the way which makes planning ahead very important. For Spring’s Airport Transport, I typically aim to begin the planning process at the end of October.
Mary Beth: MONTHS! We start planning for fall during the spring. I recruit
Peer Mentors, the small group leaders who host students throughout the day at Crimson
Connection and commit to doing activities with groups throughout the semester. This involves training the mentors, communicating with them throughout the semester and coordinating group events.
For Crimson Connection, I reach out to vendors and sponsors for the resource fair where students can set up their phones and bank accounts, as well as coordinate all the speakers who present at orientation. I contact departments across campus to get brochures and pamphlets about their different resources, like the Writing Center, Crimson Cruisers, IT’s Quick Start Guide and more for the resource packets. It’s only one day but it takes a ton of planning to get 500 students prepared for their first year at OU!
What advice do you have for our new international students to help them settle in and feel more at home away from home?
Megan: My biggest advice for our new international students is never be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s a classmate, professor, advisor or someone you meet off campus. We are all here for you! Also, get involved on campus! There are so many fun and amazing organizations for international students, and there is such a strong sense of community and support within them.
Mary Beth: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes! You *will* make mistakes and you might even fail at something. However, those mistakes will help you learn, grow and succeed. Don’t give up just because you made a mistake — that is a sign of bravery. Get out of your comfort zone! When I lived in China, someone gave me some very wise advice: If you’re going to laugh about it later, you might as well laugh about it now.
Where have you traveled internationally?
Megan: I have been to various parts of Mexico several times for vacation and work, went to Belize on my
honeymoon, and I studied abroad in Spain as an undergrad and then moved back there for a year while working on my master’s degree. While living in Spain, I traveled within Europe to Italy, France, Portugal,
Ireland, England, Scotland, Greece and a short day trip to Morocco.
Mary Beth: I lived in Chongqing, China, teaching English to university students from 2010-2014. I’ve traveled around Asia, and also been to Uganda and Finland. My sister-in-law is Finnish but grew up in East Africa,so I have a very multi-cultural family and I love it!
Fun thing we should know about you?
Megan: I’m obsessed with my Miniature Schnauzer, Walter. He’s like my child.
Mary Beth: I was an exchange student and then lived as an expat in China for four years. I understand
what it’s like to try to survive in a very different culture than the one I grew up in. I understand the language
barrier, and I have experienced A LOT of culture shock, both while living in China and when I returned to
Oklahoma. I want students to know that I can empathize with their experiences!
Megan: I have so many, but at the moment it’s “Despacito.” It makes me happy and makes me want to dance.
Mary Beth: Oh gosh, there’s no way to choose just one! Recently I’ve been listening to Zach Winters and Bethel Music, but I’ve also had “Despacito” stuck in my head for a while!
Megan: Loaded cheese fries.
Mary Beth: Ice cream! Coffee! Chinese dumplings!
What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
Megan: I love spending time with my husband J.D., our 5-month-old baby boy Arlo and our pup Walter. I also love hanging out with friends, playing games, reading books and binge watching TV shows. Traveling is my absolute favorite, but that seems obvious!
Mary Beth: I love trying new foods and coffee shops, going on adventures with my husband, watching Gilmore Girls and we are working on bringing our fixer-upper house built in 1985 into the 21st Century.
For questions or to learn more about OU’s International community and programs, contact Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mary Beth at email@example.com. Also, click here to learn even more about activities throughout the year!