Perched atop sunset cliffs, with a clear view of the ocean from almost every dorm on campus, Point Loma Nazarene University attracts many San Diego locals – especially those that surf. While most of the students attending PLNU are from California, the university also attracts a fair share of out-of-state and international students. According to Amber Nakumura, assistant director for the Office of Multicultural and International Student Services, PLNU has 51 total international students, with 32 of these students enrolled as traditional undergraduate students.
The transition to PLNU’s campus is not just difficult because of possible culture shock, but international students have to navigate logistical problems once they enroll. Nakumura said her main role is to help students with F1 visa regulations, which is the student visa they are under while attending PLNU.
At her job, Nakumura said she “wants to make sure the students know who to come to if they have questions about visas. I think there’s a lot of fear around breaking visa rules and I want to help them walk through that so they know what they’re allowed to do and not allowed to do.”
Nakumura said that dealing with stress about visa regulations is not something that needs to be added to the already busy schedule of an undergraduate student. She said that in her role she tries to encourage students to connect with the PLNU community, pointing to clubs like those under Multicultural Opportunities for Students Actively Engaged In Community (MOSAIC) as a possible place to connect with others.
MOSAIC includes a club for international students called UNITE. This year’s president, Maeve Eugenio, is a third-year biology student from the Philippines. As president, Maeve works to welcome international students on campus and create opportunities for other PLNU students to come and learn.
“We try to balance fun with informative, but I am always leaning toward information, because we want to educate people about different cultures,” Eugenio said.
Eugenio said she has the unique experience of trying to create community between people from many different countries. She said UNITE has different events that highlight international students where they can share something about their culture, like food from their home country.
The last UNITE event highlighted Daniel Mutowa, a fifth-year international student from Zimbabwe with a major in media communication. Mutowa recently created a short film titled “Cultures Behind Loma,” which won the first place award at the PLNU Driftwood film festival.
“The Cultures Behind Loma was a video project that focuses on the individuals and the cultures they represent on this campus,” said Mutowa. “I feel that the student body may not know what countries are represented on campus.”
Mutowa said that as a media communication major and an international student, he had to introduce the international students featured in the short film to the student body.
“Art, for as long as we have known it, has been a tool we humans have used to express ourselves and our everyday lives,” said Mutowa.
The first episode of the short film features UNITE president Maeve Eugenio as she cooks food from her home country during an interview. Mutowa said he plans on releasing two more episodes of Cultures Behind Loma before the end of the semester.
“International students are taking a huge step towards a better future by leaving their home to come here and for most students the only available support they have is their advisors and few professors,” Mutowa said.
Mutowa said that MOSAIC helps to cater to the needs of international and multicultural students, and UNITE in particular is a safe space where students can express themselves with peers who have similar life experiences.
Eugenio said that “there’s always a misconception that MOSAIC clubs are only for people of color or international students.”
While these clubs are created to be a safe space for students of color on campus, Eugenio said that UNITE also exists to educate all students.
“For me it [UNITE] kind of represents the whole world!” said Eugenio.
To learn more about UNITE and their upcoming events, visit https://www.instagram.com/plnu_unite/.
Written By: Reyna Huff