The Visiting International Student Program (VISP) gives international students a chance to study abroad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sampling life in a one-of-a-kind American college town. During last Friday’s International Student Graduation Celebration at Gordon Dining and Event Center, the VISP students got one more chance to hang out with Bucky Badger in an annual event organized by International Student Services.
The event, marking the end of the 2014-15 academic year, featured food, music, awards, and farewells. The VISP students, who do not earn a degree from UW-Madison, mingled with international students who are graduating from the university. In addition to the awards given to degree-seeking students and staff, this year’s celebration included the newly created Exchange & Visiting International Student Academic Excellence Award. UW-Madison honored 47 VISP and exchange students for having a 4.0 grade point average during fall semester 2014.
“Although the International Student Graduation Celebration is held once a year, we will offer this award every semester to recognize the exceptional work of our non-degree international students,” says Anna Seidel-Quast, coordinator of the Visiting International Student Program for the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies.
“These students are brand new to the university, brand new to the country, and often brand new to the language,” she continues. “It’s remarkable that they were able to maintain a 4.0 grade point average while enrolled full-time in their first and perhaps only semester on our campus, especially considering the culture shock and the level of academic rigor at UW-Madison.”
Josh Juedes, VISP sponsored groups coordinator, adds, “We’re glad that our visiting students can be recognized for their time here at Wisconsin. It’s a great way to celebrate their achievements and recognize their contributions to campus.”
The Visiting International Student Program had over 200 students in fall 2014, the largest since UW-Madison started the program in 2012. They hail from all over the map—from Brazil to China to Germany. VISP students commonly have transformative experiences on campus and consider themselves lifelong Badgers. Many hope to come back to UW-Madison for graduate school.
“What surprises them the most is how generous faculty are with their time,” Seidel-Quast says. “The ability to go in and talk to faculty during office hours doesn’t exist in a lot of places.”
Zhitao Yu, a VISP student from China’s Shandong University, appreciates the chance to do real research here with UW-Madison professors. “The professors are really kind to students,” he says. “They love students to ask questions and do research [with them]. I really enjoy it here.”
Participants in the Visiting International Student Program are considered University Special students, coming for any term to take classes across campus. They can join clubs, use the UW-Madison facilities, and benefit from student support services.
They also have full access to Bucky Badger, and many made use of this privilege at the International Student Graduation Celebration.
“The passion that people have with the university is incredible, and it pushed me to enjoy everything that Madison can offer,” says award winner Julia Teixeira de Castro from Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais. “I always say that I am very lucky to have come to Madison. Once a Badger, always a Badger.”