New International Graduate Students Take a SLICE of Life in Durham

8/24 Pratt School of Engineering

In its second year, the Summer Language Intensive Communication Experience acclimated a group of new international graduate students to life at Duke and Durham

New International Graduate Students Take a SLICE of Life in Durham

The Thursday afternoon before new graduate student orientation officially began for Duke Engineering, nearly 20 international students gathered with faculty and staff for lunch at the Eno River State Park. The trip was the culmination of four days of programming specifically tailored to new graduate students to help them settle into an unfamiliar culture and country, and it was the highlight of the program for at least one student.

Students cheersing glasses against a brick wall background“The place where we went was a small open shed in the middle of the forest, and it was so beautiful!” said Mithil Bhuta, a Master of Engineering Management student from Mumbai, India. “We had a great lunch where we met some of our faculty, and then we had a team building activity where we made a small boat and then actually sailed it in the river. We spent a great time at the river and took lot of amazing photos together!”

Dubbed the Summer Language Intensive Communication Experience, or SLICE for short, the program aims to help participants acclimate to student life at Duke, learn more about Durham, and get to know classmates, faculty, and staff at Pratt. It’s full of interactive and fun activities, including a variety of tailored communication and intercultural workshops, personalized walking tours of downtown Durham, a curated exploration of local restaurants and their food offerings, and, as already mentioned, an afternoon of team-building fun at Eno River State Park.

From navigating the idiosyncrasies of American dining—what exactly is that sauce for, anyway?—to becoming familiar with campus and all of the resources available at Duke, SLICE looks to set international students up for success from their first day in Durham. Originally launched in 2019, this is only the second time the program has been offered due to the constraints placed on colleges everywhere by the pandemic over the last two-plus years.Participants in SLICE sit at a picnic table creating a boat to race down the Eno River

“We were thrilled to bring such an enthusiastic and diverse group of students together, where they could begin to build connections with each other and with us,” said Sue Mathias, director of Graduate Communications and Intercultural Programs. “We hope SLICE gave them a solid footing here at Duke and in Durham, as they embark on their new academic adventures.”

And from all accounts, the program met its goals. Students reported gaining new friendships, connections to faculty, comfort with knowing where to get information, and a familiarity with campus and Durham.

“I chose the SLICE program to get to know more about Duke culture and maybe get a head start, as this is my first time in the States,” said Lokesh Sirkali Suresh Kumar, a master student in biomedical engineering from Tamil Nadu, India. “To be perfectly honest, every part of the program was engaging and exciting, so it is difficult to choose just one favorite experience. This is the most fun I have had in a very long time, as moving to a different country, let alone a different continent, can be very stressful, and I learned a lot in the process.”

“I absolutely loved the program. I was able to network and had the opportunity to create relationships as well,” said Sheevaani Metta, a master student in cybersecurity. “Apart from that I was able to understand a lot of cultural differences between India and here, and basically understand the norm, or rather the vibe, in USA and Duke University.”