Visitors to the newly relocated International Students and Scholars Office (on the second floor of Cumnock Hall on North Campus) will find a new staff member this fall: administrator Sasha Johnson, who is beginning her first full academic year at the university.
Johnson, who previously worked at an English language school in Boston, says the challenge of helping so many different international students navigate their way through cultural, academic and immigration-related issues drew her to the position.
“I love the fact that I get to work with over a thousand different students here,” says Johnson, who estimates she was already helping about 30-40 students each day this summer with everything from visa documentation to obtaining a driver’s license. “I really wanted to be close to more cases — more intricate cases. I love the volume of work.”
Johnson, who hails from southeastern Connecticut, is no stranger to international culture.
“I was fortunate to grow up in a community where there were 40 different languages spoken just on my high school campus,” says Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Salve Regina University and a master’s in intercultural relations from Lesley University in 2013.
Johnson is also an avid world traveler. She studied in Spain for seven months and lived for a short time in Brazil, where she still tries to visit friends every year. She’s also been to France, Morocco and Colombia.
“When I go places I like to visit friends,” she says. “I’m living with the people and see how they live. That’s what I enjoy.”
Keeping up with ever-changing immigration policies can be tough, but Johnson is up to the challenge.
“Sometimes it can be a little scary for people, but I find it very interesting,” she says. “You’re always learning and being challenged by your own beliefs, and I love that.”
But more than anything, Johnson enjoys learning about the students she is helping.
“They share their stories with us, what’s going on in their countries, good or bad. They share how they grew up, their customs, their culture,” she says. “I like being able to hear their stories and helping them translate that to living in the United States, even for short period of time.”