Menu Menu

Take 5 with Petra Knoche

Friday, May 6, 2011
Take 5 with Petra Knoche
By Katie Land, news editor

Composed of a diverse array of faculty, staff and administrators, the Oakland University community is unique, creative, and dedicated. As part of a continuing effort to explore the various roles and lives of our Golden Grizzlies,
the News @ OU website presents a new interview series. We invite you to share these stories and “Take 5” with OU.

“Take 5 with Petra Knoche”

Petra Knoche is the assistant director of the International Students and Scholars Office. Through her work in the ISSO, Petra is able to interact with a diverse group of students and scholars while working on a variety of projects such as individual advising for new students, advising on immigration matters for current Oakland students and scholars, event planning and program development. She works to create a culturally diverse campus environment and provide support and resources for international students studying here and scholars who are working here. Originally working for the OU women’s basketball team, Petra joined the Oakland community 11 years ago and has been at the ISSO for the past seven.

1) What changes have you seen at OU since you arrived?

Over the years, I have seen new buildings pop up and more and more traditional students arrive on campus, of course. But I have also seen an increase in the number of international students. We now host more than 400 students and scholars from over 60 different countries, who bring a great diversity to the university. Over the past few years, our office has also been able to collaborate with other campus departments and we have worked hard to really create OU traditions. Now there is so much to do on campus, even on the weekends. All of our students are taking great pride in Oakland University.

2) What events or programs do you offer to help international students adapt to OU?

Working in the ISSO is my passion, so I love to create many events and programs here to welcome new students and scholars and see them achieve their academic and personal goals. It is hard for a student to be dropped off at an airport and arrive in a whole new country where they don’t know anyone, so we try to create a welcoming environment and sense of community.

Two years ago, in a partnership with University Housing, we created the International Village Living and Learning Community, where international and domestic students can live and learn together and build friendships. Each member prepares a presentation and food to share with the community. We also host different cultural campus-wide events we call “Coffee Hours” that encourage students to mix with each one another, as well as meet OU faculty and staff which gets them thinking about international relations, travel and new experiences. Then there is the Host Family program, which is a non-living, non-financial way for international students to meet new domestic people, make new friends, and learn more about the American culture. The first month that a student or a scholar is here is the most important, and we work to make sure that it is memorable and welcoming. With the International Allies student organization, any student will be able to benefit by experiencing cultural enrichment and reaffirmation of Americanism. Imagine an international experience in your own backyard and establishing a relationship with a person from another country; No visa or passport necessary. OU allies also plan events and fun trips to museums and other places to interact with each other.

3) What is a typical day like for you?

I get up at 5 a.m. in the morning to play basketball before the day really begins. I really love basketball, and it is a great cardio workout and stress reliever. Then I work my regular day from 8 to 5 or 6 p.m., where I see many students, work on projects, meet with OU colleagues, and plan events. We host a lot of events in the evening, so I spend a lot of my nights here as well.

4) Have you done much traveling yourself? Where are your favorite destinations?

I have been able to see so many places. I have traveled throughout most of Europe and through a lot of the Caribbean. I have been to Hong Kong, Thailand, and Hawaii. Thailand was very beautiful and easy to get around in. I also try to go to the Czech Republic, my home country and to see my family in the city of Prague every year. I am proud of where I am from, where there is so much beauty and culture. Travel was very important to my mother; she took my family many places by train growing when my sister and I were young.

5) What advice would you give a student looking to study in a foreign country?

I would say “go!” I am a true believer that anyone and everyone should travel abroad and to also learn a new language. You can learn so much about yourself when you are outside your own comfort zone. Travel enables you to appreciate your own life and family, and to be self-reliant. International travel has been the best thing ever for me. Some lessons are hard to learn in a textbook, we live in a global technical environment but traveling to other parts of the world leaves an impression that you will not forget. I encourage people to embrace new experiences with their eyes open.