By Bryn Fawn
Jacqueline Vogl, the director of GEO, and Inga Karpenko, a licensed mental health counselor on campus, are both concerned with the mental health of international students. Together, Vogl and Karpenko have utilized their resources to form a support group dedicated to assisting international students. However, no one has attended since the first session March 9.
Karpenko held a support group meeting March 23 in the H.U.B. inside the Angell College Center, but no one attended the event. Karpenko has held weekly sessions since March 9 in the H.U.B.. Karpenko also said she had been trying to form a group since the Fall 2021 semester. Karpenko, through GEO, has been attempting to spread awareness for the group by reaching out to international students on what times and dates work best for them. Karpenko received no response.
Karpenko said that she hopes the group will provide a “safe environment [for students] to talk about their issues, to voice what they need in order to feel more comfortable.”
According to Vogl, international students make up 5% of SUNY Plattsburgh’s campus. Also, the top three nations international students derive from are: India, specifically Indian citizens, Japan and Ethiopia. This goes against the national trend, as according to Statista, the top three nations are China, India and South Korea. Vogl also said SUNY Plattsburgh has zero Ukrainian students and only two Russian students.
“[GEO] thought [a support group] was an excellent idea,” Vogl said about how having an international mental health counselor could help hesitant students. “If a student did actually have an issue that they felt needed individual attention they would know [Karpenko] and it would be easier to move into direct assistance.”
Vogl then proceeded to clarify on how different experiences and cultures can make it more difficult to assist international students.
“Historically there’s a bit of a renaissance and a stigma in some countries, not in all, for international students who are experiencing stress [or other difficulties] and would benefit from counseling who are hesitant to reach out in that way,” Vogl said.
However, Vogl said domestic and international students at their core may not have different issues.
“I think [international students’] needs are similar [to domestic students’] although they’re culturally flavored. I think they’re culturally flavored by their culture, religion, linguistic patterns or history,” Vogl said.
Vogl said she has not received any feedback personally from international students, and she claimed to have made attempts to reach out.
Karpenko also said GEO and the counseling center on campus provide resources for international students.
“We have crisis clinicians available everyday so if someone has extreme anxiety or finds themselves that they can’t function that day, they can have themselves seen that same day,” Karpenko said. “We don’t have much of a wait list; we can basically schedule [students] the next week. The doors are open.”
Karpenko noted the support group is open to all international students and is not just for students affected by the Ukraine invasion.
“There has been increased stress from students whose origin is from Russia or Ukraine,” Karpenko said. “I hope that they will receive this information and really take this opportunity to come in here and process.”
Karpenko is Russian herself, and began working for SUNY Plattsburgh in October 2021.
Karpenko said she would assist those having anxiety and “fear of the future” and if a student is unable to make it to the support group meetings they can schedule a session with the Health Center.
President Enyedi sent out an email March 7 to the campus stating that lights in the front of Hawkins Hall will be yellow and blue to stand with Ukraine. He hasn’t said anything else about it since this email. Enyedi shared resources for those involved, but did not specifically highlight any involved groups, in a previous email released the day of the invasion. According to an Open Doors report, for the 2021 to 2022 academic year, there were 4,805 Russian international students alone in America. Enyedi didn’t comment on Russian international students in his email.
Karpenko also said that the situation could use more attention from Enyedi.
“I think it would be a great idea if the president could look into maybe opening a discussion for the entire campus about the political situation right now,” Karpenko said.
“We have done no more and no less than other [campuses],” Vogl said in regards to SUNY Plattsburgh’s efforts on the Ukraine invasion.
She was glad to see the Student Association hold an event March 30 in response to the war. Vogl said most campuses have informed their students and have “waited for students to rise up.”
Vogl’s hope for the future of the support group is a “better outcome immediately” and that more students will be comfortable enough to reach out for assistance when necessary.
Those interested in the support group can contact Inga Karpenko at email@example.com or contact the counseling center on campus at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (518) 564-2187.