ISO helps students cope

By Sandra Masibay

Helping international students adjust and making sure the necessary paperwork is in order are two of the many things the International Student Office (ISO) does.

The ISO, located at 515 Garden Road, verifies non-resident VISAs, contacts embassies overseas and makes sure the students have the financial necessities to afford an education abroad. The office consists of a director, an assistant director, an office manager and an admissions officer.

The ISO office was established in the 1950s as a response to the growth in the international student population here at NIU following World War II.

Mark Thackaberry has been the director of the office since 1972. Encouraged by a group of international students to apply for the position after the previous director quit, Thackaberry applied. What was to be an “interesting job for only one or two years” turned out to be his occupation for the past 11. Thackaberry says he has watched the office, the students and their situations change over time.

Thackaberry noted that in a world fueled by constant change, changes for ISO should be of no surprise. However, many of the changes affecting students can be those of a radical political nature uprooting their lives from all forms of prior normalcy.

For instance, the overthrowing of the Shah of Iran, the dissolution of the Russian state and the war in Lebanon have a direct affect on the lives and economic states of some of NIU’s international students.

How does the ISO deal with students who have lost their family and source of support virtually overnight?

“Scholarships, assistantships … we are constantly on the lookout for change and finding ways to deal with this,” Thackaberry said.

To attend NIU, international students pay up to three times the amount that in-state students do. The total amount is approximately $15,000 dollars annually.

Besides helping international students cope with how their lives have changed because of social revolutions occurring in their respective countries, the smaller problems of adjusting socially in a foreign country are also tackled.

He pointed out the language gap as another area of difficulty for international students.

“When two people from two different countries say the same thing, it might mean something totally different to each of them.” Thackaberry said.

He said despite all the obstacles students are generally happy with the education they receive.

Two-thirds of the international students are graduate students; the remaining are undergraduates. There is a higher percentage of students enrolled in the hard sciences compared to liberal arts.

Mark Thackaberry earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Knox College and an MBA degree from University of Illinois—Champaign/Urbana.